The end is near . . .
The end of the school-year, that is! The Facebook posts have been filling up my newsfeed with ideas for parents on how to avoid the inevitable “boredom” epidemic. In the past few years I have started out strong with great ideas and distractions but eventually lost steam along the way. As the end of summer came around our home had become a myriad of art projects, our yard was full of DIY creations (some completed…some not), and I was exhausted! Although this is certainly a very real issue for parents, this year I have found my mind wandering in a different direction. After reading an article on CNN, my mind is now more focused on others’ children, and not so much my own.
Did you know that summertime brings a rise in child hunger in the United States? According to an article published by CNN, “A record 21.7 million American kids get free or reduced-price lunch during school. But when summer vacation starts, the vast majority of them go without this essential, federally funded benefit. Fewer than 4 million kids -- or just 18% of those in the school lunch program -- are fed through the U.S. Department of Agriculture's summer food program.” This leaves a large percentage of those children with limited options.
Duke Storen, a senior director at Share Our Strength comments, “In the summer, when those school meals disappear, children find themselves hungry and with few options. One of the top hurdles for the summer meals effort is the federal requirement that the kids receive the food at an approved location and eat it on-site. The rationale is to ensure that the children are the ones actually consuming the meals.” So why don’t more children and parents take advantage of this program? “It's not easy for kids to get to the meal sites, especially in suburbia, where poverty is growing. Also, the weather can be a factor, as can violence in certain cities. The increased number of children in need has prompted some local officials to try new ways to reach them in the summer months. They are bringing meals to more locations through buses or trucks and adding activities to draw the kids there.”
According to city’s website, Pittsburgh, Pennsylvania is “expanding its free summer breakfast, lunch, and snack program for kids and teens to more than 125 locations across the city and will begin serving meals on Monday, June 15. The ambitious new program, called GrubUp, aims to serve healthy meals to at least 7,640 young people daily through August 14, a 10% increase over last year’s average daily attendance of 6,946. GrubUp will continue year-round, adding out-of-school time meals to all 10 Citiparks sites this fall. GrubUp will offer meals at 20 additional sites -- a 30% increase from 2014 -- and also feature the GrupUp Food Truck that will visit 28 different parks, pools, and playgrounds from June 23 to August 7.”
Audrey Rowe, a department administrator states, “On a national level, the USDA is working with lawmakers to increase flexibility around the summer meals program. It is also expanding the number of sites offering meals, with the most recent push being health centers and children's hospitals.”
I am excited to see what progress these programs will make in decreasing the number of hungry children this summer. It also has given me some great ideas for activities to do (when boredom strikes or just as a way for our family to volunteer to a greater cause). I believe finding unique ways to help this cause in our own city will keep us busy all summer…and beyond!