New program to help Delaware students fight hunger

 Volunteers pack food into coolers at the Food Bank in Newark. (Charlie O'Neill/WHYY)

Volunteers pack food into coolers at the Food Bank in Newark. (Charlie O'Neill/WHYY)

During the school year, more than half of Delaware students get free or reduced price lunch. 

Now, under a new initiative that launched earlier this month, the Delaware Dept. of Education is trying to ensure that all income-eligible students take advantage of the program.

The Dept. of Education will mail meal benefit forms to parents in the interest of enrolling students in the National School Lunch Program. Students may also be able to enroll in the School Breakfast Program and the After School Snack Program.

Under the latest income standards, a family of four must earn less than $31,000 per year to receive free lunches. A family of four earning $44,000 or less is eligible for reduced-price lunch.

According to the 2014 Kids Count Fact Book, more than 60,000 Delaware kids get a free lunch every day at school. Another 6,000 get lunch at a reduced price. That means more than half of the state’s school population is getting free or reduced price lunch from September to June. In the summer, it’s harder to get food to kids who need it most.

Summer feeding

Logistics becomes a challenge during the summer months when kids, who are a captive audience during the school year, are far more spread out. That’s where agencies like the Food Bank of Delaware step in.

“It may be in a park or an apartment complex,” said Greg Coumatos of Food Bank’s varied methods of distribution during the summer months.

Coumatos is the Children’s Nutrition Coordinator at the Food Bank. He expects to help feed 5,000 kids over the summer.

“We want to get as many people on board as possible, because there’s definitely more than 5,000 kids in the state of Delaware that need assistance.”

To put together all those meals, the Food Bank is always in need of volunteers.

“It makes you feel good to help out, to those in need, and once people understand that, they’re willing to come in more.”

Anyone who needs food assistance can call 211.

“That will get them in touch with a local food pantry or some sort of help for them,” Coumatos said.

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