(BPT) - Children everywhere look forward to the long sunny days of summer vacation, but not everything about being away from school is fun and games. Many children who rely on free or reduced cost meals during the school year are at risk of going hungry during the summer months.
“Millions of children are food insecure, meaning they don’t know where their next meal will come from,” says Stacey McDaniel, spokesperson for the Year-Round Food Program at YMCA of the USA. “Proper nutrition is vital to a child’s emotional, mental, and overall well-being. The Y is committed to ensuring that kids don’t go hungry and that they have access to nutritious foods all year.”
The U.S. Department of Agriculture (USDA) reports that more than 30 million low-income children receive free or reduced-price meals through the National School Lunch Program, but only 2.3 million continue to receive these meals over the summer break.
There are many ways McDaniel says people can help address childhood hunger in their communities this summer:
Put excess to good use:
We often think of food donations around the winter holidays but hunger is a year-round problem. On your next trip to the grocery store, pick up extra non-perishable items – pasta, canned tuna, dried beans – and donate them to your local food pantry or community outreach program. You can also clean out your pantry and donate unexpired food.
Spread the word:
If you know of a family in need, let them know about community programs. The YMCA’s Summer Food Program, for example, is providing nutritious meals and snacks, as well as fun activities to kids 18 and younger at more than 1,100 locations, including mobile units, community gardens and apartment complexes across the country. The program is part of a year-round effort by the Y, with support from the Walmart Foundation, to address childhood hunger. This summer’s program goal is to serve 5 million healthy meals and snacks to 150,000 kids. More information is available at www.ymca.net/summerfood.