For years, I thought that life was easier in the “Good Ole Summertime”. There was no ice, no snow, no slippery roads, and longer, warmer days to look forward to. Well, I guess with age comes awareness. I never realized that for some children in this country, the only meals they ate were those received at school. For food-insecure families, the situation worsens in the summer. Many schools send backpacks of food home with their needy students on Fridays to feed them through weekends during the school year, but what happens during summer vacations? The simple answer is that when school is out for the summer the school breakfasts and lunches don’t exist. According to the sources I’ve found, only 18% of the children helped at their schools are fed regularly during the summer. Some areas are fed through the U.S. Department of Agriculture’s Summer Food Program, (https://www.fns.usda.gov/sfsp/summer-food-service-program) , but not all. I checked their website, and unfortunately some needy areas that I am familiar with in this part of Pennsylvania have no food access in the summer from this program. Some of the churches in the area have stepped up to fill this gap. One church has a “Blessing Box” posted for people. It is filled with non-perishable food. People are encouraged to help themselves, and if they so desire, to deposit food for others. In another economically depressed area, some women joined forces to start a local food bank to service the area needy. I was fortunate enough to visit it recently, and it is a marvelous example of organization and scope. A nationwide organization working to end child hunger is Share Our Strength/No Kid Hungry (https://www.nokidhungry.org/). Share Our Strength relies on individual and corporate donations. If you visit their site, they have some terrific ideas on how we all can help. There is another organization called Feeding America (www.feedingamerica.org). Feeding America is a wonderful organization that works with food banks, stores and corporations. They are able to purchase excess food stuffs at a discount and distribute it to food banks all over the country. They rely on corporate and individual donations. In addition to cash donations to these organizations and food banks, you can add to your giving by taking advantage of grocery specials and couponing. Also, even though these are technically called “Food Banks”, their need is not just limited to food. Diapers and personal hygiene products are always in demand and can help our neighbors maintain a sense of dignity.
Now is also a great time to start stockpiling school supplies to help teachers and needy children for back to school. The Pennsylvania Association of Retired State Employees is collecting various items to help the Education for Children and Youth Experiencing Homelessness (ECYEH) from June through September. You can even start a school supply drive of your own. Just go to the following site, Create the Good, Start a School Supply Drive, (http://createthegood.org/toolkit/how-hold-school-supply-drive) to learn how. Or, just do like I do, pick up school supplies as you find them, and donate them to various schools or collection sites closer to the end of the summer.
All this may sound overwhelming, but it’s really not. I just pick up food and school items as I find them, and donate them where I can. It’s actually a stress-reliever. I breathe a little easier, knowing that a kid will have something to eat and supplies for school. I can’t imagine a world where these needs go unmet, and hopefully, if we all work together, we won’t have to.
Shine your light,
“Charity is the bone shared with the dog when you are just as hungry as the dog. ”