Summertime hunger is consistently a problem for the 22 million children who rely on free and reduced-price school meals for most of their nutrition and caloric intake. As schools come to a close this year, the likelihood that hunger will increase is even greater due to the growing food insecurity caused by the COVID-19 pandemic. Thanks to pandemic relief waivers from the USDA, and the amazing school food service providers across the country, universal free school meals were offered to students throughout the school year. However, summer break creates a unique threat – the nonprofit No Kid Hungry estimates that standard summer meal programs only reach 16% of children who require food assistance while school is out.
Feeding kids consistent nutritious meals protects their health and makes them less likely to develop chronic processed food-related diseases later in life. It has also been shown to lessen anxiety. No child should spend their summer vacation hungry and worried about when and how they’ll get their next meal. Pandemic food insecurity has hit communities of color particularly hard, with twice as many Black and Latinx adults reporting their households are not getting enough to eat compared to white families.
Luckily, help is on the way. The USDA just announced the largest summer food program in US history that will help feed more than 30 million low-income children throughout the summer months. All kids who receive free and reduced-price school lunches will be enrolled automatically, and existing summer food programs will be available to all school-aged children at no cost. With the new relief and community feeding programs, we can keep American children hunger-free for summer.