More than 21 million children benefit from free or reduced-price meals through the National School Lunch and Breakfast Programs. But when the school year ends, many families struggle to fill the nutritional gap caused by the disappearance of these meals. Feeding America and its national network of food banks are working to ease this burden by distributing additional food to low-income families with children during the summer months.
Feeding America reports that children consume up to half of their daily calories at school during the school year. For parents of schoolchildren receiving free or reduced-price school meals, suddenly making up for these calories over the summer presents a tremendous financial strain.
Feeding America food banks are helping to make up for these missing meals by offering nutritious meals and snacks programs this summer. Many of these efforts receive financial support from the U.S. Department of Agriculture’s (USDA) Summer Food Service Program (SFSP). In New Hampshire, Feeding America’s free grocery programs include nutritious, kid-friendly foods such as cereal bars, peanut butter and jelly, microwaveable soups and applesauce.
Last year, 131 Feeding America food banks distributed nearly 8 million free meals to children at 4,200 sites. “We hope to see participation increased by at least 10 percent this year,” says Bob Aiken, CEO of Feeding America. “We encourage families who may be eligible for these programs to contact their local food bank to find out what services are available in their area.”