With summer fast approaching, child hunger shifts to the forefront of our minds here at the Maryland Food Bank. According to the Maryland State Department of Education, nearly 400,000 children lose access to their school system’s Free and Reduced Price Meal Program during the summer, resulting in a critical spike in child hunger. In the next few weeks, these kids will close their lockers for the school year and return to a food-insecure home.
“Summer is one of the toughest times for food-insecure kids and their families,” Maryland Food Bank Youth Program Manager Deborah Grant explained. “In addition to finding childcare during the summer months, working parents are forced to stretch an already-tight budget to fill in this seasonal meal gap, adding to their financial stress.”
In response, the Maryland Food Bank created our Summer Club Program, an integrated effort that targets food-insecure kids at summer childcare centers in low-income communities.
“Our Summer Club Program helps fill the meal gap that’s left for thousands of kids when the school meal program shuts down,” Grant added. “A lot of these kids were relying on their schools for two, sometimes even three, meals a day. It’s our job to supplement the school meals they miss during the summer.”
The goal of the Summer Club Program is to provide hungry kids with the nutrition they need to thrive during the summer and return to school happy, healthy, and ready to learn. In between arts and crafts, sports, and other activities, kids at participating summer clubs receive nutritious breakfasts and lunches delivered straight from our Charles T. Bauer Community Kitchen.
“Working with fresh produce from our Farm to Food Bank program, our chefs develop nutritious takes on kid-friendly favorites,” Grant explained. “By exposing kids to new foods and healthier options, we’re able to infuse a nutrition education element into the program.”
This year, the Maryland Food Bank expects to distribute approximately 180,000 nutritious meals to 75 summer clubs at faith-based organizations, community agencies, and recreation centers across the state.
By providing healthy, homemade meals to children in summer clubs, the food bank gives kids the opportunity to be kids during their summer vacation without having to worry about where their next meal may come from.
For more information on this year’s Summer Club initiative see our press release.