Hunger won’t take the summer off as school ends, leaving few options for many area children who get two meals each school day.
They are the kids who eat breakfast and lunch at schools through free or reduced-priced meal programs. The hunger will follow them home, creating added stress for needy families.
Children in low-income families aren’t just in the urban core. Today, their numbers are growing in the suburbs and rural areas, too, forcing many working families to seek assistance. It has left Missouri among 11 states the U.S. Department of Agriculture has targeted to increase the number of students getting meals over the summer because of the large need.
That’s where Harvesters-The Community Food Network tries to fill the gap with its Kids Cafes.
Last year 133,000 meals were served in the summer program. Expect that number to grow this summer, because the food bank will have 62 feeding sites in the 26 counties it serves in Kansas and Missouri, up from 46 in 2010.
Kids Cafes will be in designated parks, swimming areas, schools, community centers and nine libraries. “It’s all about making food available where kids are during the summer,” said Ellen Feldhausen, director of communications with Harvesters.
Unfortunately, the need is substantial. Feeding America’s Map the Meal Gap study shows that 20 percent of the children in the counties Harvesters serves live in households where they don’t always have enough food.
In the U.S., the child food insecurity rate is 21.6 percent. It’s 22 percent in Missouri and 22.5 percent in Kansas. The two states are part of the breadbasket, but poverty and hunger continue to hurt.
Harvesters tries to help year round. Summers are a challenge because donations slow down. Those who need assistance or want to help Harvesters can go to harvesters.org.