For many kids, summer vacation comes with a thrill of anticipation. Weeks stretch ahead filled with dreams of bike rides, swimming pools, family vacations and long, lazy days hanging out with friends. However, for millions of kids in America, it’s a much different story. For kids living in low-income families struggling to put food on the table, summer’s bright promise has been replaced with worry, anxiety and the threat of hunger.
First Lady Dorothy McAuliffe and Share Our Strength, a national nonprofit that is working to end child hunger in America through its No Kid Hungry campaign, joined children at the Our House Community Center today to kick off the summer meals program and see first-hand the impact that it has for kids struggling with hunger.
National summer meals programs, like the United States Department of Agriculture’s Summer Food Service Program, were created forty years ago to help students get nourishment when school is out of session. Under the current program, federally reimbursed meals are available to kids at sites around the country, including schools, faith-based programs and community centers. This program is a lifeline for kids in need.
Unfortunately, barriers like extreme weather, transportation challenges and excessive red tape, however, block many kids from getting the meals they need.
Together, No Kid Hungry, the Virginia Department of Health, and the First Lady are working to overcome these barriers, and encouraging effective, efficient policies that make sure all kids are getting the healthy food they need.
“In Virginia, only 13 percent of children who receive a free or reduced-price lunch during the school year receive a meal each day through the SFSP,” said Mrs. McAuliffe. “We can and must do more to increase participation in these programs and connect more kids with the healthy food they need every day.”
The First Lady’s office partners with the national No Kid Hungry campaign to raise awareness about summer meals program in the area, as well as promote alternative breakfast and afterschool meal programs.
“We know the impact summer hunger can have on children and families. When school meals disappear, kids experience anxiety and uncertainty and family budgets are stretched even further,” said Duke Storen, senior director of research, advocacy and partner development at Share Our Strength. “The summer meals program provides a critical resource to these children, but far too many kids are missing out on the chance to have a healthy meal every day.”
Kinfolks Community opened Our House in July 2014, and this is its first year participating in the SFSP. On a typical day, kids participate in a number of programs in addition to receiving food, including mural painting, gardening and music. Meal service is sponsored by Child Care Resources, Inc., which helps to feed over 8,000 hungry children throughout Virginia each day. According to Child Care Resources CEO, Don Goff, “By providing children with nutritious food, we are helping to improve academic success, as well as the physical, intellectual, and emotional well-being of our most vulnerable population—children living in under-resourced neighborhoods.”
Background Information on Summer Meals Program in Virginia:
- Meals are FREE to children and teens age 18 and younger who come to a summer meals site
- Food served follows USDA nutrition guidelines and is paid for by the USDA
- Summer meals sites are at schools, churches, community centers and other places that are safe for kids and teens
- Parents don’t need to apply to the program to get a free summer meal for their kids. They can just bring their child to a summer meals site in their community.
- Families can text FOOD or COMIDA to 877-877 or call 866-3HUNGRY or 2-1-1 to find a summer meals site in their neighborhood.
About Share Our Strength’s No Kid Hungry Campaign: No child should go hungry in America, but 1 in 5 kids will face hunger this year. Using proven, practical solutions, No Kid Hungry is ending childhood hunger today by ensuring that kids start the day with a nutritious breakfast and families learn the skills they need to shop and cook on a budget. When we all work together, we can make sure kids get the healthy food they need. No Kid Hungry is a campaign of national anti-hunger organization Share Our Strength. Join us at NoKidHungry.org.