Summer is a time for fun, friends, and a break from school. Many kids look forward to it all year, counting down the days for the school year to come to a close.
But for some kids, summer isn’t a time of swimming and play.
These kids are anxious for their next meal. Unlike during the school year, their meals aren’t predictable, reliable, and consistent.
Hunger doesn’t take the summer off, and many times, it’s often worse when school is out.
Being Hungry Ruins Summer
Hunger is detrimental not only to children's physical health but also to their emotional and social health.
According to the American Psychological Association (APA), a lack of adequate nutrition in children often leads to issues as serious as brain impairment and psychiatric distress.
Other effects of child hunger, according to APA, include:
- Behavioral problems
- Failure to thrive
- Reduced motor skills
- Increased likelihood of special education needs
- Chronic health conditions
These symptoms are akin to problems you might find in third-world countries, but child hunger is surprisingly prevalent right here in the United States – and even in your own community.
The Federal Interagency Forum on Child and Family Statistics reports that in 2014, 20.9 percent of U.S. children lived in food-insecure households (meaning that during at least one point in the year, the family wasn’t able to obtain an adequate amount of food).
Hunger: Not Just A School-Year Problem
Somewhere around 30 million or more children receive a free or reduced lunch each day during the school year through the National School Lunch Program. But what happens when school ends and summer begins?
While numerous government Summer Nutrition Programs exist to help these children eat well during the summer months, the latest annual report by the Food Research & Action Center shows that only one in seven children who are eligible for the National School Lunch Program received summer nutrition last year.
That means the other six children have no additional supply of food, which can make summer excruciating.
Additionally, many children who would be deemed food-insecure live in households that don’t qualify for these government programs. There are millions of families who make too much money to receive benefits but not quite enough to provide all the nutrition children need.
How Can You Help These Children?
Clearly, child hunger in America isn’t an issue to be taken lightly, and it’s not one that dwindles away as the days become longer and the sun hotter. Fortunately, there’s good news. It is possible to make a difference.
Here are a few ways you can get involved and help fight child hunger:
- Be a good neighbor. If you personally know a family or child who seems to be struggling to find their next meal, take action. Something as simple as inviting them over for dinner once a week can make a huge impact.
- Volunteer your time. Local churches and other nonprofit organizations like Snack Pak 4 Kids are working to end child hunger, even during June and July. But these programs, big or small, require a lot of hands-on assistance. Whether it’s serving meals, working in the food warehouse, or delivering food, there are plenty of ways to get involved.
- Donate money. Even if you don’t have a lot of free time, you can help a child facing hunger. Donate money to SP4K to help provide meals to kids during the summer months.
Help a child get their summer back. Get involved with SP4K.