Senator Sherrod Brown is alerting Ohioans to a program that fights child hunger during the summer months. The Summer Food Service Program allows children to receive meals during the months when school is out.
The U.S. national free or reduced-price school lunch program has long been a valuable safety net to help families get through difficult times. The summer program is meant to fill in the gap between the school years.
School meals for children from the 1930s to the present day. (photos courtesy Franklin D. Roosevelt Library and Children’s Hunger Alliance of Ohio)
Tough economic times call for help. Senator Brown says, “More than two out of every five Ohio students now qualifies for a reduced-price or free lunch. That’s a statistic that says so much about the number of families still struggling to get by—and how children are often helpless victims in a challenging economy.”
The summer program faces challenges as feeding sites are not readily available with schools closed. Right now, a startling 33 Ohio counties do not even have a feeding site. Even if one is established, there is the issue of transporting children there.
Brown says, “We must do more not only to bring more summer feeding sites within reach to more Ohio families, but to ensure that these families are made aware of this important program that will provide their children with free, healthy meals all summer long.”
This is a problem in many states. One possible solution being tested around the country is the mobile pantry. The Arizona Republic reports on the Nutrition Express, a bus that carries meals to apartment complexes.
Another initiative being tested in Ohio is a type of summer backpack plan where children can take home rations.
The key is getting communities and organizations involved in supporting summer feeding. More communication and idea-sharing will mean more problem-solving regarding summer feeding availability.
This March Charlie Kozlesky of the Children’s Hunger Alliance of Ohio told me of their efforts to recruit an organization in the Cincinnati area called Childhood Food Solutions, run by Tony Fairhead.
Charlie writes, “We have been working with Tony in hopes that he would either become a summer feeding sponsor or a site under either Cincinnati Public Schools or World Outreach. Our goal was to show Tony how other agencies are doing mobile feeding during the week and on the weekend and receive USDA reimbursement under the Summer Feeding Program.”
Childhood Food Solutions is now listed as a sponsor on Senator Brown’s list of Ohio summer feeding sites.
What can you do to help summer feeding, whether in Ohio or another state? First, spread the word so everyone is aware of the program. To find out about summer feeding in your area, call the National Hunger Hotline at 1-866-3-HUNGRY or 1-877-8-HAMBRE. The United States Department of Agriculture (USDA) website also has information on how you can get involved.