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School’s Out for Summer…

June 25th, 2011 - By Therese Madden

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…and for many kids this means not only “no more teachers,” but also no more meals. School lunch and breakfast programs are essential to fighting child hunger during the school year. How do they manage during the summer months?


Photo by Flicker user USDAgov / CC BY-NC 2.0

MORE FROM FIT: Here are a few helpful links:
Summer Meals for »
Pennsylvania Summer Meals for Children Location Finder »
Greater Philadelphia Coalition Against Hunger Summer Meals Program

Schools out for the summer. For some kids this may mean vacations and swim clubs. For others it means not enough food. Carey Morgan is the Executive Director of the Greater Philadelphia Coalition Against Hunger, she says, “throughout the school year, children can access school meals and there are about 138,000 kids in Philadelphia who are doing just that. They get free or reduced price meals, but in the summertime when school’s out, they may be missing meals because they may not be able to get those meals at home.”

And for many kids this doesn’t mean just lunch. Here’s a recent second grade graduate, “we have breakfast, lunch and snack.” That’s two and a half meals at school each day. But although there are over 1,000 summer food sites in Philadelphia offering free meals to kids, not enough kids are visiting them says Carey Morgan, “we have about 47,000 kids who really aren’t participating in any sort of program right now that may give them some food, that will help them to stay healthy and active and learning. A lot of the time kids or families won’t know where to go so what we are trying to do is promote the program.”

One way they’re doing this is through advertisements in bus shelters and subways. This is a first for Philly, but it has worked in New York. For those who have internet access there are websites with more information or people can call 311. That’s the phone number that gets you to City Hall. Where you are first greeted a recording of the mayor. “Hello this is Michael Nutter,” It takes a little while, but a real person will get to you, and with your zip code you’ll get a list of feeding sites.           

It’s lunch time in this Catholic Church in South Philly. This is both a summer camp and a place for kids to get lunch. “Hot dogs… apple sauce…” The food is free for all the kids. The Summer Food Service Program is federally funded and the meals have been approved by the USDA. After finishing her hot dog, 5th grader Beyonce peeked in her lunch box and played amateur nutritionist, looking for something healthy, “the only thing in this lunch is raisins cause they made out of grapes and thats a fruit.”

There was also some applesauce, milk, and some sort of cookie. Any kid from the neighborhood can come to this church at lunch time and eat, but today it’s just the campers, as it often is. That worries some people, including Anne Ayela who is Assistant Director at Nutritional Development Services which is part of the Catholic Archdiocese, she says, “kids who don’t eat right from birth to age four suffer irreversible brain damage.”

Ayella has spent the last 32 years working on these issues. I asked her why she thinks more kids don’t come to these programs. “I don’t know. Sometimes I think there could be safety issues, sometimes I think they are embarrassed don’t want to go out and look for food, the need factor, that can be embarrassing for kids.”

Summer can also be tough on parents. Emma Ellman-Golan is a Fox Research fellow at the University of Pennsylvania and one of the co-authors of a recent report on this very subject. “Food stamp allotments don’t increase in the summer, so families that are making due during the school year suddenly have extra meals that they have to provide on the same budget, which is why we can assume that a lot of those children are going hungry in the summer.”

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Photo by Flicker user Chiot's Run / CC BY-NC 2.0

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Get Healthy Philly is part of the Communities Putting Prevention to Work Initiative, a federal effort to: prevent and delay chronic disease, reduce risk factors, promote wellness in children and adults, and provide positive sustainable health change in our communities.

Food Fit Philly is part of Get Healthy Philly, a program that works to reduce and prevent obesity and related chronic diseases (like heart disease and diabetes) by increasing access to healthy foods that people can afford.

Your body needs help when it's time to quit. SmokeFree Philly is a program of the Philadelphia Department of Public Health that offers support and tools to help smokers quit. The goal of SmokeFree Philly is to: help people to quit smoking, stop people from starting to use tobacco, and reduce heart disease, cancer and other illnesses caused by smoking.

Philly Food Bucks!
Philly Food Bucks are coupons that help ACCESS/food stamp customers save money on fruits and vegetables. Philly Food Bucks can be redeemed for $2 worth of fruits and vegetables for every $5 spent in ACCESS/food stamps at a participating farmers' market. Learn more about Philly Food Bucks at the Philadelphia Department of Public Health's recently expanded web site Food Fit Now also accepted at the West Oak Lane Weaver's Way Food Coop.