Millions of children in America can’t wait for summer vacation, but for millions of food-insecure children who rely on school meals it’s a mixed blessing.
In this country, 27.6 million children go without the free or reduced-price meals they need during the summer. In Maryland alone, nearly 400,000 children rely on free and reduced-price school breakfast and lunch on a daily basis during the school year. When summer rolls around, these children suddenly lose access to the reliable, nutritious meals that help them develop healthy and strong brains and bodies.
The USDA operates a Summer Food Service Program that provides meals to children in need during the summer at a variety of locations, including non-school sites. That being said, less than 10% of school-year recipients receive summer meals, meaning there is a major access gap for children in the summer months. Many advocates and government officials say more needs to be done.
"In the summer, when those school meals disappear, children find themselves hungry and with few options," said Duke Storen, a senior director at Share Our Strength.
Hunger may not take a summer vacation, but neither does Hungry Harvest nor our mission to fight hunger. We are still donating fruits and veggies on a weekly basis. We have donated over 22,000 pounds of produce to hunger-relief organizations such as Manna Food Center, Rainbow Development Center, Lighthouse Ministries, Baltimore Free Farm, the Lotus House in Miami, and Philabundance since schools let out in early June.
We also aim to close the access gap by maintaining operation of Produce in a SNAP, our weekly reduced-cost produce markets in food desert areas throughout Baltimore City. Our community markets take place at schools and recreation centers, allowing families to stretch their limited food budgets and put fresh fruits and veggies on the table for their children. Since school let out we have sold nearly 5,000 pounds of reduced-cost produce to needy families in neighborhoods lacking access to healthy, affordable food. Furthermore, we are helping the Baltimore Partnership to End Childhood Hunger promote summer meal sites by including brochures for the program at our Produce in a SNAP markets.
Summer is the most vulnerable time of the year for food-insecure families with children. This is not something that we take lightly and have been working hard all summer long to combat childhood hunger over these difficult months. We’d like to thank you all, our Harvest Heroes, because our efforts would not be made possible without your support. With each delivery, we empower a family in need by providing access to affordable fruits & veggies through our Produce in a SNAP program and donations to local organizations.