One by one, each of us can make a difference. Read this excerpt, then contact me if you'd like to take one block in a neighborhood -- or even one neighborhood -- and provide lunch for needy kids over summer vacation. We're talking sandwich, Capri Sun, chips, apple, cookie. Let's form our own grassroots organization to pull this off!
(To learn more about the summer meals program and to find out where the feeding sites are located, call the National Hunger Clearinghouse and Hunger Hotline toll-free at 866-348-6479 or 866-3-HUNGRY, 9 a.m. to 5 p.m. weekdays and 10 a.m. to 2 p.m. )
WASHINGTON (June 16) -- With the school year ending in communities across America, more than 16 million children face a summer of hunger.
While classes were in session, they relied on free or discount cafeteria meals subsidized by the U.S. Department of Agriculture. But they will not be reached by the patchwork summer food programs financed by the USDA, which feed fewer than one in five of the total number of kids poor enough to qualify.
The children caught in the gap will likely spend the next few months cadging leftovers from neighbors, chowing down on cheap junk, lining up with their families at food banks that are already overmatched or simply learning to live with a constant headache, growling stomach and chronic fatigue.
Hunger Task Force Schoolchildren gather for lunch in Milwaukee, Wisc., where summer school will be in session this year for only four weeks -- meaning hungry kids will increasingly rely on help from groups like the city's Hunger Task Force.
The USDA paid for meals for 3.3 million children over the summer break last year, through programs cobbled together by local governments and nonprofit groups. Money flows through an ungainly system: The local organizations provide meals and get reimbursed by the state government, which in turn receives federal payments.
State by state, the ability to get meals to poor children varied wildly during last year's school vacation.
In Milwaukee, the Hunger Taskforce organization has linked up with private partners like the Salvation Army and the Wisconsin-based motorcycle company Harley-Davidson to pick up some of the slack: allowing a van, for instance, to travel to neighborhoods where there is no summer meal program. Children line up in a scene reminiscent of refugees seeking help from foreign aid workers in a far-off land. Handing out bags of food from coolers in the back of the van does not qualify for federal reimbursement, so the donors cover the cost.