Hunger Doesn't Take a Vacation
Jul 8, 2021
By: Erinn Rowe, CEO
School is out for the summer! There is more time for playing outdoors, spending time with family, and maybe going on a trip to somewhere new. Time away from school can be special in a lot of ways, but− while some families enjoy fun summer vacations making new memories, others struggle to keep food on the table. Without school breakfast and lunch, some parents are worried about how they are going to feed their children for those months.
Across the 20 counties that Harvest Hope serves, 237,910 children relied on free or reduced meal programs during the 2020-2021 school year (South Carolina Department of Social Services). Those are 237,910 children in our communities who are at risk of missing vital meals they may have otherwise had at school. According to No Kid Hungry, the cost of family groceries can rise more than $300 over the summer. This forces families with budgets that are already tight to face the choice between paying for necessities like utilities and medical expenses or feeding their kids healthy meals. No one should have to make a choice as difficult and critical as this.
USDA guidelines for childhood nutrition suggest that a meal should include one serving of milk, two servings of fruits and vegetables, one serving of grains, and one serving of protein. The loss of this good nutrition over the summer can have harmful effects on children’s health. Without critical vitamins and nutrients, it can be hard for the brain and body to continue to grow and develop. Kids that face summer hunger are at greater risk of summer learning loss, which is “the decline in academic knowledge and skills over summer break” (Food Research & Action Center). Learning loss, especially when prolonged over several years, can have long-term negative impacts on academic success.
There is no doubt that school meals are actively saving and improving the lives of children across our country. Thankfully, the United States Department of Agriculture (USDA) has developed a program that helps provide nutritious meals over the summer months. If you or someone you know is a parent in need of assistance, you can find the nearest location to you using the Summer Meal Site Finder.
While these programs are helpful, they are not always easy to use. Most sites are open during the day when parents are at work or are located too far from home and gas supply is limited. This is where Harvest Hope Steps in to fill the gaps.
We can’t do it alone, though. Help us raise awareness by sharing information and resources about childhood hunger this summer. And if you want to do more, consider learning about the Child Nutrition Reauthorization, through Feeding America, where you can even take action by reaching out to congress. Donating to the food bank is also a great way to support children in your community.
Check out our Amazon wishlist for kid-friendly foods you can donate this summer to help families in need feed their kids.
For more information about the need for school lunch assistance in your county, check out the information below:
Graph numbers collected from the South Carolina Department of Social Services.
What is the free and reduced meal program?
Free and Reduced Meal programs allow students to receive breakfast and/or lunch for free or at a lowered price while at school. To qualify for free school meals, a family must have an income at or below 130% of the poverty level. To qualify for reduced-price school meals, a family must have an income within 130% and 185% of the poverty level. Reduced meals cost 30 cents for breakfast and 40 cents for lunch. (School Nutrition Association)
What is CEP?
Community Eligible Provisions (CEP) is a service option for schools in low-income areas that allows the school to serve breakfast and lunch for free to all enrolled students without collecting household applications. CEP schools receive reimbursement for meals based on a formula. The formula counts the number of students eligible for free meals based on participation in other food assistance programs like SNAP and TANF. CEP qualification requires a school to have an identified student percentage (IFP) of 40% or more. (United States Food and Drug Administration)