Summer Hunger Increasing and What YOU Can Do About It
It hasn’t quite felt like summer in Seattle just yet, but most families are gearing up for summer camp, vacation, and fun in the sun. While sunburn, poison ivy, and too much ice cream may be the top concerns for many parents – summer hunger is a growing reality for many. Yes, hunger….and it exists in our community.
Earlier this year the New York Times reported that 52% of 4th graders received subsidized meals at school. What happens to these kids when schools close for summer? Families who rely on these programs to supplement their limited incomes or SNAP benefits struggle mightily during the summer months to provide additional meals for their kids.
Fortunately there are federally-funded Summer Nutrition Programs that provide nutritious meals and snacks to low income children throughout the summer months. These programs fill the bellies of hungry children and provide relief for many low income parents. However, a report released last week by the Food Research and Action Center shows dismal participation in this program – “in summer 2011 (the program) only fed one in seven of the low-income students who depended on the National School Lunch Program during the regular 2010-2011 school year”. Right here in Washington State only 9.6% of eligible children participated in July 2011 – we rank 40th in the nation in terms of participation. Tight budgets, reductions to summer school, and lack of awareness are leading barriers to increasing participation in the Summer Feeding Programs – but we can turn this around.
This summer United Way of King County is partnering with Children’s Alliance, WithinReach, City of Seattle, Food Lifeline, Northwest Harvest, and others to increase participation thanks to funding from The Boeing Company and USDA Hunger Free Communities grant. We’re providing mini grants to agencies to start or expand programs, developing an aggressive outreach campaign, and developing public-private partnerships to expand participation.
Here are a few things we can do to make sure children have access to nutritious meals this summer:
- If you are looking for a meals site for a family member visit:http://www.parenthelp123.org/
- Community Based Organizations have until June 15 to apply for a grant from United Way to support summer meals sites.
- Now more than ever public-private partnerships are needed to make the Summer Feeding Programs work. We need to collaborate and identify new solutions to address barriers. We all need to remain flexible, creative and committed to the common goal of feeding more children.
- Volunteer with us to hang informational door hangers in select neighborhoods and help spread the word about Summer Meals so that kids don’t go hungry this summer! For each event we will meet at a central location for a brief training and to receive outreach route assignments. Then we will head out into the community to distribute outreach material. There are three different opportunities to volunteer. Interested? Click here to learn more or contact Katherine Buckley at firstname.lastname@example.org
We should all be a bit outraged that children will be at greater risk of hunger this summer. Do your part to spread the word!