Hunger Does Not Take a Summer Vacation

Tags: Mobile Pantry, Child Hunger

With Memorial Day weekend behind us, the dog days of summer are just around the corner. The season conjures up memories of barbeques and fireworks, sweltering heat and daily rainstorms. Things slow down around Southwest Florida as school lets out and our snowbird friends return north.

But the summer also means a time of heightened need for the Harry Chapin Food Bank and the thousands of families we serve as we face the season’s triple threat:

  • With limited school lunch and breakfast programs, many parents struggle to provide 10 additional meals for their children each week;
  • Summer means a spike in seasonal unemployment in Southwest Florida, leaving more families with less money for food;
  • With less local produce available, the Food Bank must spend more money trucking in food from out of state.

Children in particular feel the effects of the summer downturn. 62 percent of households served by Feeding America with children under the age of 18 reported participating in the National School Lunch Program, but only 14 percent reported having a child participate in a summer feeding program that provides free food when school is out. Although food insecurity is harmful to any individual, it can be particularly devastating among children due to their increased vulnerability and the potential for long-term consequences. Without steady proper nutrition, a child’s development – and their performance over the upcoming school year -- can be stunted. Here at the Harry Chapin Food Bank, we work to fill the summer nutrition gap for kids in need and their families. One of the important weapons in this fight is our mobile pantry program.

Mobile pantries help feed people in underserved communities; last year, we held about 300, which distributed a total of about 2.7 million pounds of food. This summer we’ll be partnering with the United Way and other supporters to hold mobile pantries at United Way houses and elsewhere in our 5-county service area.

You can help us fight hunger this summer and beyond. Learn more about the food bank by taking a tour or volunteering. You can get your business or civic organization involved by volunteering or doing a packing event at the Fort Myers or Naples warehouse. And of course you can donate funds or food to help our neighbors in need. For more information, call us at (239) 334-7007.

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