Raising Awareness of Summer Hunger
According to the latest Map the Meal Gap data from Feeding America, 19.6 percent of children in southwest Missouri are food insecure. That amounts to 50,590 kids under the age of 18 that might not know where their next meal will come from.
Many of these children rely on free or reduced-price meals at school throughout the year. But when school closes for the summer, fear and hunger can set in.
At Ozarks Food Harvest, one of our goals is to take the worry out of summer for these kids. Through our Summer Food program, thousands of hungry children have access to breakfasts, lunches, snacks and dinners from our partner agencies across southwest Missouri.
Each summer, our 15 feeding sites are open to any and every child who walks through the doors. Over 35,000 meals and snacks are provided across 10 counties from late May to mid-August. Thanks to the USDA’s Summer Food Service Program, which reimburses participating agencies for associated costs, kids are able to eat for free for the entire summer.
Several of our summer feeding sites are also able to send food home with the children who need it the most on weekends in the summer.
“We are serving an average of 220 kids per day this summer. The snack packs ensure that if a child needs food over the weekend, they are able to reach into that bag and they have something. Our families are excited that we are providing this program to them this summer,” said Rhonda Ghorman, executive director at The Boys & Girls Club of Southwest Missouri.
For children who don’t struggle with hunger, it can be difficult to explain that some of their friends from school might not get enough to eat in the summer. It’s not easy to tell your own children that hunger exists in the home of your friendly next-door neighbor or with the family across the street.
Although it might be a tough conversation, it’s an important one to have. Do your best to answer their questions and teach them about how their actions can make a difference.
Next time the topic arises, try telling your son or daughter about 12-year-old Kaitlyn, who is thankful for those who help keep her refrigerator and pantry full of food in the summer. “The food helps me because we can’t really afford food and know that we got it,” she said.
Summer is the perfect time to get children involved in the fight against hunger. As you’re enjoying watermelon on a warm day or burgers in the backyard, consider telling your kids about how Ozarks Food Harvest is helping more kids enjoy their summers and what they can do to help.
The future is in the hands of our children. Let’s teach them how to make an impact in the community.
Bart Brown is the president/CEO of Ozarks Food Harvest.