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When School Ends, Hunger Begins. Five Things You Didn’t Know.

In Sarasota County, nearly 50 percent of children participate in the free and reduced meal programs at school, and in DeSoto County 100 percent of children rely on these meals during the school year.

Presented by All Faiths Food Bank March 27, 2019

1. 40,000 kids may not know where their next meal is coming from this summer
In Sarasota County, nearly 50 percent of children participate in the free and reduced meal programs at school, and in DeSoto County 100 percent of children rely on these meals during the school year. This equates to 20,146 kids in Sarasota and 5,000 in DeSoto.

The number is even greater when you include younger siblings not yet in the school system, bringing the total children at risk of hunger over the summer to more than 40,000. According to a study on the issue of child hunger carried out in 2014 by All Faiths Food Bank and the Gulf Coast Community Foundation, third and fourth graders admitted they worry about not having food at home.

So, when school ends for the summer, how do these children find the help they need?

All Faiths Food Bank’s Campaign Against Summer Hunger has become our community’s strongest line of defense against child hunger.

2. Lack of food means missing out on summer fun and learning activities
For many, the sound of the last school bell represents months of carefree outdoor activities and time with family. But for kids who depend on school meal programs, that last school bell could signal the start of three long, hungry months at home with a bare pantry.

It’s hard to have fun on an empty stomach, but being hungry also makes learning activities such as summer reading even more challenging. Consistent, nutritious meals are essential to a growing body and mind. Even relatively short periods of hunger can contribute to developmental delays, behavioral problems and diminished concentration.

All Faiths Food Bank’s goal is to nourish children, which in turn helps boost their ability to learn. Thanks to funds raised through the Campaign Against Summer Hunger and our valued partnerships, All Faiths not only provides food for children but addresses the importance of continued learning over the summer through collaboration with child-centric nonprofits, including the schools, libraries, Boys & Girls Clubs, YMCAs, the Early Learning Center and Girls Inc.

3. Two hundred and three partners and programs work to provide 2.7 million meals
Collaboration with summer programs and partners throughout the two counties are vital in providing a safe place for children to find the food they need during the summer months. Last year, 203 partners and programs worked together to provide 2.7 million meals to almost 36,000 children. Key summer programs include:

  • Providing free backpacks with meals and snacks for kids 18 and under at different sites, including libraries, summer camps and early learning child centers.
  • Providing fresh produce, meats and groceries for children and families at mobile pantries.
  • Providing food and nutrition education at 11 learning academies, which teach families how to shop for and prepare healthy, low-cost meals.
  • Operating school pantries, which provide families with fresh produce, meat and groceries at schools throughout the summer.
  • Partnering with Sarasota and DeSoto County School District Food and Nutrition Services to enhance the meal services they provide through the summer schools and other community sites where children attend. 

4. Over 1,000 volunteers dedicate their time
Throughout the year, volunteers come together to bring the Food Bank’s mission to life, especially during the summer, when they help with programs that provide children with the food they need to succeed. Last summer, 1,112 dedicated volunteers dedicated their time sorting and packing food for distribution, putting together backpacks with meals and snacks, assisting at school pantries and distributing food.

5. You can make a difference, too
You can join the Campaign Against Summer Hunger between now and Wednesday, May 15, to make a difference for thousands of children who may otherwise go hungry this summer if not for your help. Join the campaign today by:

  • Making a donation that will be doubled through a dollar-for-dollar match
  • Starting a virtual fundraiser
  • Hosting a food or fund drive
  • Telling your family, co-workers, friends and neighbors

Visit allfaithsfoodbank.org for more information and ways to lend your support.