According to a recently published report by the Food Research & Action Center (FRAC) entitled, Hunger Doesn’t Take a Vacation: Summer Nutrition Status Report, participation in Summer Nutrition Programs has decreased across America. In July 2016, the programs served 3 million children across the country which, is 4.8 percent fewer children than were served in the previous summer.
The provision of summer meals for low-income and at-risk children that are struggling with food insecurity is critical in keeping them healthy, learning, and active during the summer months when schools are closed. According to FRAC President Jim Weill. “Clearly, more must be done to close this gap to reduce hunger, fight obesity, and reduce the summer ‘learning slide’ for millions of our nation’s children. Greater investments at the federal, state, and local levels are needed to support improved access to nutritious meals and high quality summer programming for low-income children.”
There are approximately 87,000 on Long Island that struggle with low food security every day. During the school year these children participate in the free or reduced cost school breakfast and lunch program insuring that the children have access to nutritious foods and that they can compete academically and socially without experiencing the symptoms associated with hunger such as poor concentration and tiredness. The number of schools on Long Island that offer the free or reduced cost breakfast and lunch programs have increased to include many schools located in upper middle class and middle class communities where the incidence of food insecurity has also increased. No longer do communities that have been considered historically poor have a monopoly on low-income children. A new group of children are coming from families that might not be considered low-income, they are families who since the recession of 2009 now have “less income” and their children are now in need of summer meals programs like those supported by Long Island Cares.
Commonly, summer meals are provided at local sites, such as schools, recreation centers, libraries, YMCAs, Boys & Girls Clubs, churches, and community parks for children ages 18 and under. Many of these children avoid hunger as a result of free summer meals and also benefit from other activities offered at a majority of sites. Because of the summer meals programs many children on Long Island are more socially engaged and better prepared to return to the classroom in the fall.
Long Island Cares and other organizations that provide emergency food to families and children in need collaborate with numerous programs during the summer to ensure that children receive the nutritious food they require. This summer we will dispatch our two Mobile Children’s Breakfast Food Trucks to several healthcare clinics in our region to deliver meals for children in need. By collaborating with other organizations in responding to the need for summer meals through innovative approaches like our food trucks and partnering with several of our local food pantries we can increase participation among low-income and less-income children in the Summer Nutrition Programs and ensure that every child on Long Island, regardless of where they live has a hunger-free summer.
Originally published in the HIA-LI Reporter, July 2017