Hunger Doesn't Take a Summer Break
COLUMBUS, Ohio - School is out for summer, but for many children in Ohio, hunger does not take a vacation. Summer Food Service Program sites across the state are opening their doors to provide meals to children who normally receive free or reduced-price meals when school is in session.
Nora Balduff, director of child and senior nutrition, Ohio Association of Foodbanks, said without this program, children can face nutrition setbacks and learning losses in the following school year.
"A kid needs to be able to have nutrition to learn and grow," Balduff said. "We're talking about a developing body, a developing mind. Lack of adequate nutrition at this time in their life can affect them for the rest of their life."
Last summer, only 10 percent of children who received meals during the school year were able to access summer meals, Balduff said. She urged more communities to get involved and more organizations to step up and become program sites.
The program is offered in a variety of locations - including schools, churches, community centers and parks - and often is combined with learning and recreational activities. Balduff encouraged any organization interested in becoming involved to learn more.
"You can start small and just learn what works. If you change one child's life for the summer, you're successful. It's a wildfire. People out there really want to help, they just need to know how they can help," she said.
This year Gov. John Kasich signed an executive order providing up to $1.5 million to help with summer food for children in need. Balduff said it will help with weekend backpack programs and reaching the under-served.
"Transportation, rural areas - these kinds of challenges are what this funding is intended to address. It's absolutely incredible. We couldn't be more grateful for that generosity."
Those interested in finding a site in their community or setting one up can go to the Ohio Department of Education website at www.education.ohio.gov or call 855-570-7377.