For many American children, summer is the ultimate season. Whether it’s the warm weather, the break from school or the opportunity to enjoy activities such as camp, swimming and bike rides, kids count down the days to fun.
However, 1 in 6 children in the U.S. faces hunger, according to a 2019 Feeding America report. For them, the summer months may not be so carefree. Child hunger becomes more prevalent at this time, as upward of 18 million children may lose access to the free or reduced-price school meal programs they depend on during the school year. While some programs such as the USDA’s Summer Food Service Program help to deliver meals when school is not in session, the National School Lunch Program and the School Breakfast Program do not reach children during the summer months. As a result, they could miss out on important nutrition their growing bodies need, such as dairy.
Milk is one of the most requested items at food banks. While Americans are generous with canned and dry goods, many don’t think to donate milk because it’s perishable. On average, food banks are only able to provide the equivalent of less than 1 gallon of milk per person per year.
Real milk provides nine essential nutrients, including high-quality protein, kids need for growth and development. That’s why America’s dairy community has been committed to nourishing families across the nation. Last year, dairy farmers and companies contributed 686 million servings (or 275 million pounds) of nutritious milk, cheese and yogurt to local food banks through Feeding America.
“The reality is, it’s challenging for kids to get all the nutrients they need to grow, develop and learn without milk in the diet,” said pediatrician and parenting expert Dr. Tanya Altmann. “Milk is the top food source for calcium, vitamin D and potassium. When kids don’t have access to these important nutrients, especially during their growing years, it could cause serious health implications.”
As the largest hunger-relief organization in the U.S., Feeding America works with its networks of food banks to deliver nutrient-rich foods to kids who need them when school isn’t in session. However, more help is needed.
Over the summer, the dairy community, along with Feeding America, will be rallying consumers to feed kids at locations including feeding sites, farmers markets and sporting events.
In Hutchinson, the summer lunch program, which is free for children age 18 or younger, serves up healthy, well-balanced meals from through Aug. 16. No registration is required and adults can purchase meals for $4.25.
Local lunch sites are:
- Hutchinson Park Elementary, 100 Glen St. S.W. Meals are served from 11:30 a.m.-12:30 p.m. Monday-Friday, from June 17-Aug. 16. No meals will be served July 3-5, and Aug. 5-6.
- Hutchinson Middle School, 1395 School Road S.W. Meals are served from 11:15 a.m.-12:45 p.m. Monday-Friday, from June 17-Aug. 2. No meals will be served July 3-5.
For more information about the program, email Jenny Wicklund at email@example.com or call 320-583-9929.