Childhood hunger is not just a foreign problem. In the United States, and in our own communities, there are children who don’t know where their next meal will come from. These may be children whose parents work long hours to make ends meet. Their families may have to choose between buying food or paying bills. These children rely on school lunches and summer meals to get the nourishment they need.
The Summer Food Service Program is a federal program through the USDA that offers support to ministries and individuals who are providing free, nutritious meals to children during the summer months. These ministries are bridging the gap that children in low income areas experience while the meals they usually get at school are unavailable.
More than 12 million children in the United States live in "food insecure" homes, according to the U.S. Department of Agriculture. That means those families don't have enough food for every family member to lead a healthy life. This doesn't always mean that there is nothing to eat. But it can mean that children get smaller portions than they need, or parents aren't able to afford nutritious foods.
Children in food insecure homes may not know how or where they will get their next meal. While school is in session, many of these children rely on free or reduced meal programs. When school is out, so are those meals. Summer Feeding Programs across the nation help to fill that gap. Any child under 18 can receive a free meal at any feeding site, ensuring they have access to healthy food all summer long.
You do not have to be poor to experience food insecurity. Families whose income level is above the nationally defined poverty rate may not qualify for state assistance to help them buy food. Since the poverty rate does not vary from state to state, those living in areas with a higher living costs may still struggle to buy enough nutritious, high-quality food for their families.
There are hundreds of summer feeding sites across Delmarva and southern New Jersey. Unfortunately, families who need these meals for their children may not know where they can find them nearby. The USDA maintains an updated and searchable directory of every location serving free meals to children this summer. Simply enter your zip code to find the sites nearest to you.