Summer is a time when most people envision kids having fun on their break, however, for some youth, it means they’ll be hungrier than they were during the school year.
According to the Health Policy Institute of Ohio, food insecurity — the inability to access adequate amounts of nutritious food — is a major issue for a large number of households.
The prevalence of food insecurity was higher (statistically significantly higher) than the national average in Ohio and 11 other states, according to the 2016 report “Household Food Security in the U.S. in 2015” from the U.S. Department of Agriculture, Economic Research Service.
The number of kids suffering from food insecurity is alarming. According to FeedingAmerica.org, of the 13 million children who are affected, more than 40 percent are served at local food pantries.
The tough reality for many families in need is that during summer vacation, there are no school lunches being served or after-school programs offering much-needed snacks. These programs, which help supplement the meals at home during the school year, take a pause in the summer months.
There are organizations whose chief aim is to help fill the void and provide resources to families in need at different times throughout the year.
The National School Lunch Program during the school year provides free or reduced-price meals for children based on eligibility, while Summer Food Service Program was designed for the school break. Children in need, ages 1 through 18, are eligible to receive free meals during the summer months at participating program sites. In addition, adults with disabilities between the ages of 19 and 21 who are following Individualized Education Programs (IEPs) are eligible for these free meals.
For more information or to find a location near you, call 1-866-3-HUNGRY (486479) or view the map at education.ohio.gov/KidsEat.
What You Can Do to Help
For 35 years, one of those organizations helping to distribute food to families has been the Second Harvest Food Bank, located in Lorain.
“One in five children in Lorain County are food insecure,” says Susan Bartosch, director of external affairs at Second Harvest Food Bank. “The deepest need in Lorain County is in some of our urban areas. As of March 31, we distributed 8.5 million pounds of food throughout four counties. Out of that, Lorain County received 5.2 million pounds. According to Feeding America, in order to get to all who need food in our 4-county region, we need to distribute about 14 million pounds.”
Bartosch says there always is a need for helping hands to join the cause in one way or another.
“Volunteers are crucial to all we do, whether it is sorting donated food, filling backpacks or working farmers markets,” Bartosch says.
Local Volunteer Opportunities to Help Fight Child Hunger
Find your local food pantry and donate items or help your kids hold a food drive. In addition, these Ohio food banks and other organizations are looking for donations and volunteers.
Akron-Canton Regional Food Bank
End 68 Hours of Hunger — Lake County
Greater Cleveland Food Bank
Hunger Network of Cleveland
Second Harvest Food Bank
United Way of Greater Cleveland
United Way of Lake County
United Way of Medina