Food needed to keep children fed over summer
Donations often drop off after school year ends
When school lets out for summer, it can mean hungry bellies for students who rely on nutrition programs throughout the year.
It’s just one contributing factor among several cited by local food agencies as to why they often feel the pinch during the summer months.
Kids might be hungrier at this time of year from running around outdoors, said Joanne Santucci, executive director for Hamilton Food Share, a nonprofit umbrella organization representing 11 food banks across the city.
And families’ bills can be higher than usual because summer heat often brings increasing utility costs to help cool things down, said Rachel O’Reilly, development and
communications manager for Neighbour to Neighbour.
The need stays the same in summer but donations to major food agencies are typically fewer.
“It’s really hard to believe that while we plant our gardens and plan family vacations, there are people in our community who are worrying about having enough to eat,” O’Reilly said.
Food4Kids is a nonprofit agency that tucks healthy meals and snacks into the backpacks of at-risk children in Hamilton and Halton to help keep them fed on school-year weekends.
The program has grown exponentially since it started in 2012, now working with 105 local schools and serving more than 1,500 kids every weekend, said executive director Lena Bassford.
In summer, volunteers deliver food packages once a week to the homes of 500 children whom schools have flagged as potentially in need, Bassford said.
“They’re frightened these children will have no food.”
To help combat dwindling donations, Santucci suggests people consider contributions to the food bank on their start-of-season to-do lists, just like checking smoke detectors.
“That’s where it becomes automatic.”