When the school year ends, so do school meals.
Almost 30 million students in the U.S. receive free or reduced-price meals during the school year. But when class is out, millions of these kids will go hungry.
Parents and caregivers have already seen their food budgets stretched thin as prices at the grocery store have continued to climb this past year. Plus, when federal emergency funding for the Supplemental Nutrition Assistance Program (SNAP) ended in March, 16 million U.S. households saw their SNAP benefits decrease. Households with children have lost an average of $223 in benefits each month.
Food insecurity affects 1 in 8 children nationwide, and this summer could be especially difficult for hungry children and their families.
Research shows that summer hunger and food insecurity can cause physical and mental health problems and lead to poor educational performance when school begins again.
Nutrition is a key building block for a child. Without proper nutrition, children have a great chance of having poor health. Food insecurity is associated with increased risks of asthma, diabetes, anemia and poor oral health. There's also a higher risk of being hospitalized.
Not having enough food puts children at risk for increased behavioral and emotional problems too. Researchers have found food-insecure children experience higher rates of depression, anxiety and other mental health problems.
Many studies have also looked at how food insecurity impacts a child’s ability to succeed in school. Children who don't have enough to eat have more issues with language and motor skills. When kids are properly fed their brains are nourished, which sets them up for success in the classroom.
Hunger can also have harmful effects to a child's learning during the summer. That's when a phenomenon called summer slide can be intensified without proper nutrition.
It sounds like a ride at an amusement park. But there’s nothing fun about this slide.
“Summer slide” refers to the seasonal educational setback that happens over the summer break. When kids aren't practicing reading, writing, math, or other subjects regularly, their skills can decline. All children, from elementary through high school, experience summer slide, but when children endure hunger during June, July and August, their summer learning loss is even worse.
Learn more about summer slide.
Some of summer slide’s effects can be offset by providing fun, hands-on learning projects for kids during the summer. These free educational coloring sheets are a great starting point!
Summer should be a carefree time for kids. But sadly, it’s not for the millions of students who rely on free or reduced-price meals during the school year. Instead, the summer months will be some of the hardest for families around the U.S.
And that just isn’t right.
You can make the difference for hungry children and their families this summer. Give the gift of food and household essentials so families can stretch their budgets further, put food on the table and help their kids thrive.Donate Now