Research shows that childhood hunger is linked to significant health problems in adulthood. Hungry kids have a tougher time concentrating and have more behavioral problems than those who are well nourished. School meal programs help bridge the gap, but what happens during summer vacation?
During a typical school year, a student potentially has access to breakfast, lunch, snacks, after-school meals, and weekend meals. Most of these are made possible through predominantly Federally-funded programs and engaged community members. What happens during the summer? These are all school-year based programs. During the summer months there are limited avenues for children to get food putting increased pressure on families for these three months.
There is a Federal summer meal program that provides one meal at a specific site. These programs run anywhere between June and August, but rarely the whole summer. Even more, currently in Washington State only 11% of children who receive free and reduced cost meals during the school year are accessing free summer meal programs. There is a huge gap where there are either too few summer meal sites or located too far away. The families in these areas are typically considered high-need and are most likely also utilizing their local food bank. We want to leverage this point of access for kids.
During the school year we offer the Three Squares program which is a weekend backpack program for high-need schools. This helps to fill the gap on the weekends when children considered high-need may not have access to food. The Kids Summer Food Club rounds out our services by providing kid-friendly foods throughout summer in high-need geographical areas. We see the summer food gap and the potential to help feed kids year round. That is why we have launched the Kids Summer Food Club. This program serves kid-friendly food to areas where 1) we have partner programs, 2) no near summer meal sites, and 3) where over 50% of the children apply for free and reduced meals during the school year.