The Finance of Hunger
The end of the school year is getting closer and while some kids look forward to swimming and summer camp, some kids know that summer vacation means going hungry.
"Summertime is the time we all forget. The kids are out of school for eight or nine weeks," said Matt Habash, CEO of the Mid-Ohio Foodbank. "In school they've had breakfast, lunch, and possibly even an afternoon snack. All of a sudden they go home and they're missing those opportunities to feed themselves."
About 45 percent of Ohio's school-aged children receive free or reduced-price meals at school, meals that disappear during summer vacation. If this is a cause that's close to your heart, May is a great month to help central Ohio food banks and pantries meet growing need this summer. About 35 percent of local food pantries' emergency food requests are for children.
There are many ways to help:
• The Plant a Row for the Hungry program: Donate extra food from your backyard garden to local food pantries. You can drop off extras to the Mid-Ohio Foodbank on summer weekdays between 8 a.m. and 4 p.m., or call 614-274-7770 to find another food pantry near you.
• The 22nd Annual Postal Carrier Food Drive: On May 10, leave nonperishables (canned and boxed food items) by your mailbox and your postal carrier will deliver them to a local food pantry.
• Organize food/cash donations through social media: The Mid-Ohio Foodbank provides tools to help individuals and companies organize donations. Go to midohiofoodbank.org/vfd to access these tools.
• Make Kids' Packs: Fill a decorated brown grocery bag with items specifically for hungry children. Download the suggested shopping list at midohiofoodbank.org/pdfs/FoodDrive/MOF-Kid-Packs-list-2013.pdf
And if you're the parent of a child who might have an emptier stomach during summer vacation, you can sign up for the Summer Food Service Program by calling the Children's Hunger Alliance at 1-800-481-6885. Many local libraries and recreation centers are service sites to free meals for children during the summer months.
I'm not bringing this up now because I'm trying to sour your vacation plans. It's just that as a parent, the thought of a child going hungry breaks my heart. I'm a parent now, but I've also been that hungry child.
In middle school, my father became disabled and was forced to sell his small business. Times got hard, quickly. I remember clearly the day he came home with a bag of groceries from the food pantry and, as an adult now, I know how hard it must have been for him to go there and admit that he needed help. Luckily, we didn't miss a meal. No child should have to.
This is the time of year we can rally around the local food pantry and make sure fewer parents worry about having something to feed their children during the long school break.