4 Things You Should Know About Summer Hunger for Kids in Western MA
Christina Maxwell, Director of Programs at The Food Bank, has been working with Project Bread as well as partnering food pantries and meal sites to provide access to free meals during summer vacation months. Here, she explains why hunger is a problem for children at this time of the year and what The Food Bank is doing to help families access free meal sites for their kids.
Q: What is The Food Bank doing to address summer hunger?
A: Many of our member agencies—food pantries and meal sites throughout Western Massachusetts—offer special programs for kids during the summer to make sure that they have enough to eat while school is out. In addition, The Food Bank’s Mobile Food Bank brings lots of fresh, nutritious, and often local food to neighborhoods throughout Western Massachusetts. Our Nutrition Department often runs fun activities for kids at the Mobile distributions, but we’re going to do less of that this year because of the pandemic. Families can find local pantries, meal sites, and Mobile Food Bank distributions here.
Q: Can you discuss the collaboration between The Food Bank and Project Bread on meals in Western Massachusetts?
A: This year The Food Bank is working with Project Bread, a statewide anti-hunger organization, to create opportunities at summer meal sites for families to pick up not only lunches for their kids but also groceries distributed by a local food pantry. We are currently in the process of identifying pantries that can partner in this way, and Project Bread will connect them with a nearby summer meal site. We hope this will increase the number of kids who access summer meals, and that it will also make it a little easier for families if they can get meals and groceries in one place.
Q: How can families find summer meal sites within their communities?
A: Families can visit meals4kids.org to find a site near them. They can enter their address and a list of local sites will come up. This summer, due to COVID the rules have been relaxed for summer meal sites, so adults can pick up meals for their kids, and the meals can be eaten offsite. Some sites will be giving out multiple meals (sometimes including breakfast and dinner) at one time, so families don’t have to go every day. Free lunches are available for all kids and teens, and there is no registration or identification necessary.
Q: Is there anything else you would like to add?
A: It’s important for us to remember that while summer is a fun, carefree time for many kids, lots of young people struggle to get through this time of year because they don’t have enough to eat. No kid should have to do that—every child deserves to enjoy their summers.