Summer should be a time when children are carefree and enjoy the bounty of the season. Unfortunately, it presents a significant food gap for many when free and reduced meals come to an end with the last day of school.
Although many metro Atlanta school districts will be back in session in the coming weeks, the food gap persists, compounded by the fact that households often face an increase in utilities at the same time that stretches their already tight budgets.
Enter community food banks which can fill the void. Most food banks see a surge in donations and volunteers during the weeks leading up to and during the winter holidays. It is a common assumption that winter is when they have their greatest need. This is incorrect given the aforementioned scenario.
In 1968, the United States Department of Agriculture (USDA) began to assist with this summer food shortage. The USDA’s Summer Food Service Program (SFSP) ensures that low-income children continue to receive nutritious meals when school is not in session. This summer, the USDA plans to serve more than 200 million free meals to children 18 years and younger at approved SFSP sites.
What can we do to help alleviate this situation in our own community?
Volunteer at your local community food bank, host a collection of non-perishable food or donate monetarily.
Georgia World Congress Center Authority (GWCCA) team members are volunteering this month at the Atlanta Community Food Bank’s Product Resource Center. We will inspect, sort and pack non-perishable food items to prepare for distribution to more than 600 partner agencies across Georgia.
Additionally, the GWCCA is hosting a canned food drive for the entire month. It will culminate in a donation of the food to the Atlanta Community Food Bank the day we volunteer at the Product Resource Center.
Be creative and allow other community programs to inspire your own.
Some food banks partner with mobile libraries to deliver mobile meals to rural areas where access to summer programs is limited. Other opportunities come in the form of a mini-pool party environment when summer meal sites host lunch at a community pool once a week.
In other areas of the country, children not only eat a good meal but learn how food is grown. They tend gardens that they start from seed with the guidance of a retired science teacher. They read books about farming, learn farm-to-table practices even cook simple, nutritious snacks. Some food banks host a children’s farmers market once a week where kids can choose fresh produce that they’ve learned about with “food banks bucks” provided by the program. Children go home with food, recipes, and healthy eating lessons, excited to share with their families.
For ideas on how to have your own fun this summer while combating hunger in your community, download the Hungry to Help Family Action Plan and get involved in the fight to end summer hunger: www.feedingamerica.org/take-action/talk-about-hunger/.