School's End Signals Loss of Nutritious Meals for Millions of American Children

Jun 14, 2010, 10:59 ET from Share Our Strength

Meal Sites Are Available Throughout the Country This Summer

WASHINGTON, June 14 /PRNewswire-USNewswire/ -- Approximately 16 million children in America will struggle with hunger in the coming summer months. The reasons are varied - many families or caregivers lack access to, or are unaware of, free meal programs in their area, according to Share Our Strength®, the leading organization working to surround children in America with the nutritious food they need to lead active, healthy lives.

The numbers are alarming: During the school year, nearly 19 million children from low-income families eat a free or reduced-priced lunch at school. During the summer months, just three million children access local summer meal programs, leaving 16 million eligible kids vulnerable to hunger. While there are many food programs at the state and community level to address this hunger gap, the challenge is raising awareness and connecting people to these sites.    

"Children in the U.S. aren't hungry because we lack food. Children are hungry because they lack access to programs that can help - like summer meals," said Bill Shore, Founder and Executive Director of Share Our Strength, the leading national nonprofit ending childhood hunger in America. "There are only 34 summer food sites for every 100 school lunch programs.  Fortunately Congress has the perfect opportunity to improve access to summers meals through reforms included in the Child Nutrition Reauthorization legislation.  It is time to do so."

A recent Share Our Strength report reveals how deep and pervasive the problem of childhood hunger in U.S. schools is: 64 percent of teachers say that most or many of the students at their school rely on school meals for their primary source of nutrition.

The summer break then leaves these children lacking a food safety net. Research has shown that when kids go hungry they are sick more often, are more likely to be hospitalized, have behavioral difficulties and are less likely to perform in school, athletics and in social situations.

Share Our Strength is working in partnership with a number of state governments, nonprofits and the private sector to make sure kids are fed every day by increasing participation and access to the free summer meals programs that are funded by the federal government. As part of their No Kid Hungry™ campaign, Share Our Strength is focused on increased awareness of summer meal programs, the number of summer meal locations and meals provided, and the number of kids served.

To find a local meal site by state, go to www.Strength.org or call 1-866-3HUNGRY, the WHY National Hunger Hotline.

Efforts in various states include:

  • Maryland—The Partnership to End Childhood Hunger in Maryland is helping increase participation in its summer meals program in a state where only one in four of eligible kids have access to summer meals. Their multi-pronged awareness campaign, funded in part by Share Our Strength, includes postcards dropped into kid's backpacks, bus signs, posters, a free phone hotline, website and radio ads. A pilot awareness program last summer with a goal of increasing participation by three percent, saw the participation rate increase by 11 percent. Working closely with Governor Martin O'Malley's office, the Partnership is instituting a statewide campaign this summer.  
  • Florida—The Florida Partnership to End Childhood Hunger helped enact a new state law that brought a summer meal site within five miles of every elementary school in Florida. A pilot public awareness program in Orlando last summer led to a 76 percent increase in the number of children participating in their summer meals program, providing the state nearly $900,000 in federal funding.  
  • Colorado—The Colorado Campaign to End Childhood Hunger is made up of a statewide, public-private coalition of key stakeholders working to increase the number of Colorado children getting summer meals and is raising awareness about the availability of these meal sites among low-income families. To date, the campaign has seen an increase in sites and sponsors of the program.

About Share Our Strength

Share Our Strength, a national nonprofit, is ending childhood hunger in America by connecting children with the nutritious food they need to lead healthy, active lives.  Through its No Kid Hungry campaign--a national effort to end childhood hunger in America by 2015--Share Our Strength ensures children in need are enrolled in effective federal nutrition programs, invests in community organizations fighting hunger, teaches families how to cook healthy meals on a budget, and builds public-private partnerships to end hunger, both nationally and at the state level. Working closely with the culinary industry and relying on the strength of its volunteers, Share Our Strength hosts innovative culinary fundraising events and develops pioneering cause marketing campaigns that support No Kid Hungry. Visit www.Strength.org to get involved in the No Kid Hungry campaign.

SOURCE Share Our Strength



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