As the school year draws to a close and summer stretches out before us, America’s poorest school children find themselves at even greater risk than usual. Because, when the school’s doors close so does the prospect of meals for many kids who rely on school lunch and school breakfast.
More than 20 million American children get a free or reduced price school lunch, and although all 20 million are eligible for meals in the summer too, only 3 million get it. That’s because not enough school districts take the necessary steps to establish alternative sites. The irony, and this may be Washington D.C.’s best kept billion dollar secret, is that the federal government reimburses 100% of the cost of the meals served, which means budget strapped state and local governments could also benefit from dollars that come in to buy milk from local dairy farmers, bread from local bakers, and so forth.
The real problem is that these children are not only vulnerable, they are voiceless. They don’t belong to powerful membership organizations or have highly paid lobbyists. They depend on average, caring citizens like us to be their voice. That’s why Share Our Strength has committed to spend $1.6 million this summer in 35 states to help establish summer meal sites and raise awareness among parents so they can ensure meals for their children.
Everyone has a strength to share, and everyone has a role to play in our No Kid Hungry campaign. The need has never been greater. The recession has left 48 million Americans living below the poverty line and more than 22 million children on food stamps (which we now call the Supplemental Nutrition Assistance Program) for the first time in the history of the country. Go to www.strength.org to see how you can get involved.
This guest post is from Bill Shore, the founder and executive director of Share Our Strength®, a national nonprofit that is ending childhood hunger in America. Shore is also the chairman of Community Wealth Ventures®, Inc., a for-profit subsidiary of Share Our Strength that offers strategy and implementation services to foundations and nonprofit organizations. Shore founded Share Our Strength in 1984 in response to the Ethiopian famine and subsequently renewed concern about hunger in the United States. Shore is also an author. His most recent book is The Imaginations of Unreasonable Men, published in November 2010, which documents the lifelong efforts of researchers to end malaria.