When one thinks of summer, images of water balloon fights, swimming, and carefree times come to mind. For many children, summer is a time when their bellies are never full and the cupboards are bare. Lets face it--- growing children (especially pre-teen and teen) eat. Activities and summertime fun make children hungry. Yet in these hard economic times, there are many children who do not have enough to eat during the summer. Not to mention, those that do may have limited access to healthy food options.
In my community, each year I work with an organization that distributes lunches to children who ordinarily get for their lunch (sometimes the main meal of the day that they will get) from the school they attend. In my community alone, there are over 2000 children signed up for this program. This week I recently saw a notice that the shelves of our local food pantry are empty. Additionally, after 2 years working once a month at our local food pantry in the evenings, I know that there is an increase in moms and dads coming in just to get a few items specifically to feed their children.
So summers are rough if you are a hungry child and there are lots of hungry children out there. Furthermore, hungry children have very little access to healthy foods that are ordinarily abundant during the summer - so they are left with cheap unhealthy foods to fill their bellies.
How to Help
One thing that you need to know is that Food Banks can buy food much cheaper than you can. So donations to food banks are not only easy, but they also give you the most bang for your buck.
Super Quick Method of Helping: Feeding America is an organization that supports local food banks. You can donate through them and they will use the money to purchase (at an awesome price) foods to help families in need.
Kinda Quick Method of Helping: You can use the Feeding America Food Bank Locator to find a local food bank to whom you can donate.
Donating is good, but I also understand the need for givers to have a personal connection with giving. Hey look, I have a child that I am constantly trying to teach about the importance of thinking of others and the lesson is kinda lost when I say you can do it online.
There are a variety of small, local food pantrys, many are run by churches or other civic organizations that are always in need of donations. These pantrys often have limited hours, so be sure to call ahead and see what kind of items they can take. In many cases, fresh items are welcome, but they must be timed with distribution days because small pantrys do not have a lot of storage.
So here are a few suggestions for 'getting your hands dirty" ways to help:
Purchase healthy kid friendly foods and donate them to your local food pantry (you can locate these by calling your regional food bank). Items that they rarely get and would love to be able to hand out are:
- baby carrots (buy a big bag and break it up into smaller portions for children)
- salad makings
- low-fat milk
- fresh fruit and vegetables
Work with your local food pantry to provide a lunch for children on the day their family comes in. You can make a lunch for around $1 to $1.25 each.
- A standard loaf of bread will make 9 -12(half pound loaf) sandwiches. (Consider 10 for $10 days at the local grocery)
- A bag of pretzels will make 15-20 individual servings.
- Juice boxes run about 25 cents each.
Do you have other ideas? Please post them. I'd love to hear them. Also if you know of a great food pantry in your area, please share!