Summer break leaves children without regular meals


Liz Reasoner, Executive Director
Food Bank of the Albemarle

Sunday, May 6, 2018

Summer break should be a time when children play outside, spend time with family and friends, and ultimately get ready for the new school year in August. For 22.8 percent of area children, summer means the end of regular, nutritious meals. We all know how difficult it is to manage our work and home responsibilities, but just imagine how difficult that must be for a parent to have to worry about providing enough for their child to eat.

The latest data from Feeding America’s Map the Meal Gap 2018 reflects there are an estimated 14,510 children living within the Food Bank of the Albemarle’s 15-county service area who are food insecure. With a total population of 63,701 children under the age of 18 in our area, almost 1 in 4 of our area’s children, summer is a time of increased hunger. We all know that a lack of nutritious meals over summer break can inhibit a child’s learning and development, as well as present health complications.

Food insecurity is defined as “the state of being without reliable access to a sufficient quantity of affordable, nutritious food.” Studies have found that food insecurity has been associated with many health problems for children, including chronic health conditions such as anemia. Some children also tend to experience difficulties in learning and with social interaction among peers.

This hunger dilemma is totally unacceptable. As a community of individuals, churches, businesses, educational institutions, and non-profits, we must come together to fill this gap and ensure our children have enough to eat.

This problem is compounded during the summer months for children that live in remote rural areas where Summer Meal programs are not accessible or even offered.

According to the Map the Meal Gap 2018, the report on overall food insecurity and child food insecurity indicates that the southeast region of the U.S. continues to have the highest rate of food insecurity. North Carolina resides in this region with the highest food insecurity by county.

For more than 35 years, the Food Bank of the Albemarle has lead the effort to fight hunger and poverty across our 15-county service area, and educate the public on the effects of food insecurity. Every Summer demand at the food pantries and mobile programs increases because children are home for their meals and food budgets become increasingly strained.

Once again we are partnering with The Daily Advance, Cooke Communications, and The Perry Auto Group to kickoff our Annual End Summer Hunger campaign that launches this month. The purpose of the “No School = No Lunch” campaign is 3-fold:

— To create a greater community awareness about childhood hunger in our region;

— To generate additional revenue and funding sources to enable the food bank and its partner agencies to make nutritious food, including fresh produce and lean sources of protein, available for children and their families facing food insecurity during the summer months;

— To unite our community by working collaboratively to help feed children who are in need within the food bank’s 15-county service area

Together, we can make a difference. To get involved immediately with this year’s “No School = No Lunch.” campaign, look in today’s paper for the remittance envelope. Or, donate online at www.afoodbank.org. For more information, please contact Brian Gray at brgray@feedingamerica.org or call 252-335-4035, ext.108.

Hunger and food insecurity is not a problem that can be solved by a single person or organization. By working together, we each take responsibility for improving the availability of nutritious and plentiful food for all children in need. Together, we will ensure that no one goes hungry.

Liz Reasoner is executive director of Food Bank of the Albemarle.