For many kids, summer vacation is a time to relax – spend some time with their friends, head off to summer camp, or take a road trip with their family. But for too many Maine families, the summer months can be difficult.
When school is out, kids no longer have access to school breakfast and school lunch, and their families’ budgets are often stretched to the breaking point trying to make ends meet. In fact, low-income families report spending an average of $300 more per month on food during the summer. And despite that extra spending, studies show that kids are still at a higher risk for both obesity and hunger during the summer months.
Here’s the problem: of the 64,000 kids in Maine who receive a free or reduced-price school lunch, only 16% of them are also participating in one of the dozens of free summer meals programs across the state that can provide them with healthy, delicious food during the critical summer months. Many families don’t even know these programs exist.
Share Our Strength’s No Kid Hungry campaign is ending childhood hunger here in Maine and across America by closing that gap, and working with public officials, nonprofits, business leaders, and others to increase awareness of and access to these programs, and ultimately connecting more kids in need to free summer meals.
I wanted to see first-hand the great work that Share Our Strength’s No Kid Hungry campaign is doing, so I took the time recently to visit a summer meals site here in Maine to learn how they’re connecting more kids to the free summer meals they need to thrive and what I can do in Congress to support their work. Here in Maine, the No Kid Hungry campaign works closely with Preble Street, a hub of services for families struggling with hunger here in Maine. Preble Street is truly doing amazing work for Mainers – providing 500,000 emergency meals a year to kids and their families, and working tirelessly to expand access to free summer meals.
Here in Maine, 24% of our children struggle with hunger. That’s inexcusable – no child should grow up hungry in America. Thankfully, it doesn’t have to be that way, and by connecting more kids in need to effective nutrition programs like summer meals, we can make No Kid Hungry a reality here in Maine.