It may not be something that many of us think about too frequently, but we have a hunger crisis in America. One in 6 children struggle to get enough to eat every day — that’s millions of children who have no choice but to skip a meal or go to bed hungry.
That is heartbreaking.
Luckily, school-age kids get a bit of help in the form of free or reduced-cost lunch and breakfast programs that are offered throughout the country in our public schools. During the school year, 21.7 million kids take advantage of these federally funded programs.
But what happens to these kids during the summer? The United States Department of Agriculture (USDA) has a food service program for low-income kids, which is fabulous. But the problem is that far too few children are able to take advantage of it.
According to No Kid Hungry, an organization that has teamed up with the USDA to get the word out about the summer food service programs, only about 16% of kids take advantage of these meals during the summer months. The reason? Many families just don’t know these programs exist. And even if they do, they don’t know how to find out how and where to get them.
As Derrick Lambert, Summer Meal Expert at No Kid Hungry, tells Scary Mommy, “Summer can be the hungriest time of year for kids in need. When schools close, students no longer get school meals, and many families struggle to put food on the table.”
That’s where No Kid Hungry comes in. They are looking to get the word out about the free meal programs for kids in need. You may have seen their awesome social media campaign around Facebook or Twitter lately.
No Kid Hungry has set up a texting service so that all parent, teachers, friends, or neighbors have to do is text “FOOD” (or “COMIDA) to 877-877, and they will automatically get a list of sites in their area that have free summer meals for kids in need.
A rep from No Kid Hungry explained to Scary Mommy that the meals, which are served at churches, community centers, camps, schools, and libraries, are funded by the USDA. But the texting service is No Kid Hungry’s initiative and is funded by No Kid Hungry as well as its sponsors.
How incredibly great is that? I love how simple it is. Almost everyone has a phone that can send texts these days, and this seems like such an easy and effective way to get the word out about such an important initiative.
“One of the biggest barriers to kids getting the food they need in the summer months is that families simply don’t know help is available,” Lambert tells Scary Mommy. “We wanted to find a quick, streamlined way for folks to find summer meals, so No Kid Hungry developed the texting program.”
It’s such a shame that so many people don’t know these summer meals exist. If there is someone in your community who might be in need, please spread the word. In fact, spread the word whether you know of anyone who is in need or not. Families who struggle don’t always make this public knowledge, and your small act of kindness might mean more than you realize.
Of course, like many helping organization out there, No Kid Hungry relies on donations given by folks from all over to keep their initiatives in action. According to the No Kid Hungry website, since their launch, they have helped provide over 500 million meals — and counting — to kids.
Childhood hunger is an urgent problem in this country, and kids suffer the hardest in the summer months when they should be soaking up the sun and having a carefree childhood. So don’t just sit there. Help spread the word about summer meals for kids. And if you’re inclined, donate to No Kid Hungry, so their vital work can continue.