This post was originally published on May 16, 2016, and updated on June 26, 2018.
Recently, I went and visited a school in rural Illinois to discuss BoardShare with the school’s principal. As she and I walked around the school, I smiled as I watched the kids running outside for recess. I remembered that their spring break was the following week, and thought about how much I looked forward to that time of year as a student.
“They must be excited about their break coming up,” I commented.
“Most students are excited about spring break,” she replied. “But for my kids, spring break means that they don’t eat for a week.” I discovered that around 30% of families in the area were below the poverty line.
I was struck by the impact of her statement. While processing the fact that the only meals many of these students receive are at school, my immediate question was “what do these students do during the summer?”
Hunger is a rampant problem for students throughout the US. According to the Hunger in Our Schools 2015 report (PDF), 84% of principals say that students are coming to school hungry because they don’t get enough to eat home. 6 in 10 educators say that “a lot or most” children in their school rely on school meals as their primary source of nutrition.
Educators worked to find a solution to make sure their students had access to meals during the school day. Schools began to implement free and reduced-price lunches and breakfasts for their students, and these programs had a great deal of success. Students were more alert during lessons, caused less disciplinary problems, and attended class more frequently.
But what about during the summer months?
The Food Research and Action Center (PDF) reports that, in 2012, six out of seven low-income kids who ate a free or reduced-price school lunch during the academic year did not get a free meal during the summer, and only one in seven kids who ate a free or reduced-price school lunch during the school year also participated in summer meal programs. For many families, the main issue is a lack of awareness about these summer meal programs.
The Summer Food Service Program helps to provide meals to students during the summer months; they have a link on their website that allows users to search where the nearest food site is located. I was surprised to find that there was a food site less than a mile from my office building.
Many parents/educators are not aware of programs that are out there for these students, so help us spread the word! If you are aware of (or work in) a school where students face this hunger crisis, please share the link below so they can participate in the program and get meals during the summer months.
Summer Food Service Program’s website: http://www.fns.usda.gov/sfsp/summer-food-service-program-sfsp
To learn more about the Summer Food Service Program in your State, contact your administering agency (the education department in most States). You may also contact the USDA Food and Nutrition Service Public Information Staff at 703-305-2286.
Update: It has been two years since this post was first published so we thought it would be a good idea to keep you informed on the latest efforts of the Summer Food Service Program for 2018.
"If you have a school-aged student in need of breakfast and lunch this summer, simply text “FOOD” to 877877 and receive a message back with a location closest to where they can get free summer meals. Even if you aren’t in need, someone else’s kids are. No child deserves to go hungry, ever."
This is a real number with an accurate message posted on Facebook. The summer program, No Kid Hungry, is federally funded and administered by the USDA’s Food and Nutrition Service, which also runs the National School Lunch Program and School Breakfast Program during the academic year.
Many parents/educators are not aware of programs that are out there for these students, so help us spread the word! If you are aware of (or work in) a school where students face this hunger crisis, please tell them to text "FOOD" to 877877
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