This is a sponsored guest post on behalf of the YMCA. I agreed to help them spread the word about their wonderful Summer Food Program.
Summer sun goes perfectly with a juicy watermelon, tasty burger, heaps of potato salad and corn on the cob. Does that get your stomach growling and your mouth watering? For most Americans, summer barbeques are a way of life, but for the 16 million children in the United States who live in food insecure households, this kind of summer fun is replaced by empty bellies and dinners with not enough food to go around.
The reason for this is simple: almost 30 million children receive free or reduced-price meals through the National School Lunch Program, a government funded program that provides nutritional breakfast and lunches to children in public schools across the nation.
Teachers are often the first line of defense against hunger during the school year, with 62 percent of teachers reporting that they regularly see children come to school hungry, and more than half of those teachers reporting that they provide food for their students at least once a week. During the summer, that safety net is gone, leaving children without a source of regular food – and often, without their main source of nutrition.
Hunger can leave a lasting impression on children. Childhood hunger can lead to behavioral problems, and children who experience hunger are two-thirds more likely to be at risk of developmental and behavioral problems than children who have enough to eat.
Hungry children are 31% more likely to have been hospitalized at least once since birth, and suffer from physical maladies, too, including stomachaches and headaches. They are also less likely to retain information, which can lead to learning disabilities and lagging behind their peers in school.
There are a few options during the summer for children who live in food insecure households. First, the SNAP (supplemental nutrition assistance program) is available to provide some relief to families who need it – but the average benefit is less than $1.50 per person, per meal, and statistics show that 90% of SNAP coverage is often gone before the 3rd week of the month. The USDA’s Summer Food Service program also helps, but only 2.3 million children are taking advantage of it.
Because of their commitment to improving the health and wellness of communities nationwide, the YMCA of the United States has partnered with the Walmart Foundation to put a stop to hungry bellies during the summer. The YMCA Summer Food Program is providing more than 5 million meals and snacks to more than 150,000 children and teens in communities far and wide, including Indianapolis, rural Kentucky and Seattle. The summer food program is open to ages 5 through 18, and is available in more than 1,000 communities. The Summer Food Program even has mobile routes to deliver food to children in some communities! In addition to providing nutrition, this program also provides physical fitness and learning opportunities to the children to help them have fun while they get their fill of food.
To learn more about the Summer Food Program or to find a Y in your community, visit the YMCA Summer Food Program website, and get involved in creating a healthier tomorrow.