A child enjoys a bowl of cereal and some fruit for breakfast / Photo courtesy of Feeding America
As a kid growing up in Boonville, Mo., summertime meant little league baseball games, trips to the Lake of the Ozarks with my grandparents and running through the sprinkler in my front lawn. I have a lot of fond memories of the summer months. Summer just always felt so free to me. It stayed light outside longer, there was no homework to worry about and I certainly didn’t have to think about where my next meal was coming from.
Unfortunately, for many kids in the United States the summer months are not as fun. When schools let out for the summer, millions of kids from across the country are forced to look for new sources of food.
According to the most recent data from FRAC, more than 9.4 million kids participate in the free or reduced National School Breakfast Program and more than 20 million kids participate in the free or reduced National School Lunch Program.
That’s a lot of meals to make up and it’s no easy task, especially when you factor in that many of these kids’ parents are either unemployed, underemployed or working multiple part time jobs. Even if their parents are bringing home a paycheck that doesn’t always equate to meals on the table.
After the monthly bills are paid, there’s often very little to pay for food. Food banks help feed these families in need.
Children make up the largest segment of the population receiving food assistance from the St. Louis Area Foodbank and within our 26-county service territory, there are more than 148,000 kids that are food insecure.
The short-term impact of hunger on kids is tough, but the long term implications can be devastating.
Studies show that proper nutrition improves a child’s behavior, school performance and overall cognitive development.
That’s what makes food banks so important. We help fill in the meal gap over the summer months. We’re there for those kids in need, but we need your help. Whether it’s sorting and re-packaging food to go out to our partner agencies, making a monetary donation to help us bring more food into the area or hosting a food drive to help feed these hungry kids, you can make a difference.
As a kid, I was lucky. I had two amazing parents and there was always food on the table. Summer was fun because I didn’t have a care in the world.
I am currently blessed to work at the St. Louis Area Foodbank and along with all the other terrific employees here, we’re working hard every day to help feed those 148,000 food insecure children who aren’t as lucky.
It may be summertime for them, but the living certainly isn’t easy.
For more data on childhood food insecurity, please check out the interactive map on Feeding America’s Map the Meal Gap page – http://feedingamerica.org/hunger-in-america/hunger-studies/map-the-meal-gap.aspx .
Ryan Farmer is the communications manager at the St. Louis Area Foodbank