School is out, or nearly so. But for millions of kids, summer vacation means three long months of hunger.
Over 21 million children depend on free or reduced-cost school meals during the school year. “Depend on,” as in those awful school lunches may be the only food they eat all day.
When school’s out, the Summer Food Service Program is supposed to step in and feed these children — but it only reaches about 1 in 7 of them. The rest live too far from the nearest summer meals sites, or don’t have transportation to get there every day, or simply don’t know the programs exist. So almost 20 million kids go hungry, or they eat cheap fast food that fills them up but leaves them malnourished even as it nudges them into obesity.
It’s things like this that make me wonder what I’m doing writing about how to make beautiful vegetable tarts or homebrew ginger ale. Yes, it’s cute to see my little nephews making butternut squash spring rolls or shelling fava beans, but meanwhile the world is falling apart.
Eventually I remember to take a deep breath. No, this little blog of mine isn’t going to end hunger — if you want to do that, you need to end poverty, which is a little beyond my reach. And no, my readers probably don’t include many of the parents who are working two jobs and still have to choose between groceries and rent.
But it reaches you. And since you obviously have a few extra minutes in your day, and care about food and/or kids, here are a few things you can do:
Spread the word about summer meal programs. Meals are FREE for all children and teens 18 and younger, with no enrollment or cost. The USDA has downloadable flyers in English and Spanish, social media buttons, and more materials you can share. http://www.fns.usda.gov/sfsp/raise-awareness
If you have school-age kids, maybe see if their school needs someone to photocopy flyers that they can send home (with all children, because you never know who needs help) this week. For bonus points, include a map with local program sites and their hours and dates.
Email Congress. The summer meals program is up for renewal this year, and Congress needs to know it’s important. No Kid Hungry has an online form, so this one only takes a minute. Click here to email Congress
If you’re working on your next food-as-a-service startup idea, think about maybe figuring out how to get healthy food to hungry children who can’t get to meal sites. If you can deliver lunch on demand to tech employees in SOMA, you can figure out how to make this happen.
And if you have hungry kids — or know some — here’s how to find free summer meals in your area.
Text ‘Food’ to 877-877
Text ‘Comida’ to 877-877
Call 1-877-8-HAMBRE (en Español)
(Text any time; call Monday through Friday, 8 a.m. to 8 p.m. ET)