Millions Of Children May Go Hungry This Summer Without School-Provided Meals
As the school year draws to a close, for millions of American children the last bell of the year may cause more stress than summer celebration. For them, the end of school does not mean a few months of fun and relaxation. It means they may be at risk of hunger.
That's because only 2.3 million children participate in the Summer Food Service Program (SFSP) – a fraction of the 21.5 million kids who qualify for free and reduced-price lunches and depend on those meals they get at school.1
In response, ConAgra Foods is doing its part to raise awareness by naming May 23 National Hunger-Free Summer Day – a critical time for organizations and individuals to step up and help fill the gap of children in need.
"Over the years, we have learned the most impactful summer hunger relief programs are those designed with the kids in mind," said Kori Reed, vice president, ConAgra Foods Foundation and Cause. "Every year, we work closely with Feeding America to evolve our Hunger-Free Summer programming to reach children in meaningful ways. Whether that's by setting up picnics at the parks in which they play, planting community gardens for hands-on nutrition education activities, or delivering meals via mobile trucks to their neighborhoods, our goal is to provide kids with the energy they need to enjoy the summertime."
Hunger-Free Summer Grants
Half of the ConAgra Foods Foundation's $10 million commitment to Feeding America – the nation's leading domestic hunger-relief charity – is dedicated to Hunger-Free Summer grants. The program is now in its fourth summer.
29 food banks in 20 states will use the grants this summer to overcome barriers in a variety of ways, including:
- Bringing meals directly to areas where families naturally gather, such as parks and libraries
- Facilitating family enrollment in government food programs
- Providing healthy foods to children in rural or low-income areas in partnerships with other organizations, such as local fire departments
- Recruiting volunteers to establish and sustain summer feeding programs
- Launching programs that provide nutrition and healthy-living classes
"Last summer alone, we supplied more than 100,000 meals across 47 feeding sites," said Gail Atkins , director of programs, Redwood Empire Food Bank in Santa Rosa, Calif. "That's more than six times the number of meals we provided in 2004 when we didn't have the resources afforded by the Hunger-Free Summer grants. This is our fourth year receiving the grant, and beyond building sheer capacity, the process challenges us to innovate year-over-year."
"We learn what works, how we can work around obstacles, like how to make our sites more fun so kids will want to come back – and we share those insights with other organizations," Atkins added. "These learnings shape subsequent programs, and it all drives our collective bottom line: to feed more children."
Join in the Fight against Child Hunger
Even if hunger is only temporary, its impact can last a lifetime. Children who miss breakfast and lunch are more likely to be sick, inattentive, and disruptive in class. They're also more likely to score lower on achievement tests.
There are many ways to get involved and help feed kids this summer:
- Spread the Word: Watch Chris O'Donnell, a father of five and film/TV actor who is a celebrity advocate for the cause, talk about the issue of domestic child hunger. For every view and share, a meal is donated.2
- Volunteer: While providing meals is a top priority, fun activities are also important in encouraging children to come back to feeding sites. During the summer, volunteers can help transport food, set up a feeding site, or do activities with children. Visit www.feedingamerica.org to find a nearby food bank.
- Advocate: Help raise awareness of the resources offered this summer. To find nearby programs in your area, call 1-866-3-HUNGRY.
Over 20 years, ConAgra Foods and the ConAgra Foods Foundation have donated more than $37 million and 310 million pounds of food to Feeding America. To find out more about this year's Hunger-Free Summer program, please visitwww.childhungerendshere.com. Additional information on the company's and Foundation's commitment to the fight against child hunger is available here.