This school year has looked and felt different for children and families across the country. But as the summer season begins, it is important to remember that summer can also mark the time of year when children have less food to eat. For many children school is not only a place to learn, but a place where they get reliable access to food. Due in part to the COVID-19 pandemic, more than 57,620 children in Idaho may experience food insecurity in 2021. This equates to 1 in 8 children. After a long year of uncertainty, kids should be able to enjoy their summer break without having to worry about facing hunger.
During the last year we have worked with our school partners to continue to provide food to children and inform families about additional sources of food. The Idaho Foodbank’s Backpack program ensures that students who are chronically hungry have access to adequate food over the weekend by providing them with a backpack full of nutritious, kid-friendly food every Friday during the school year. While the pandemic has affected this program, we have worked with each school to keep the program going. For the 2020-2021 school year we had 174 schools that distribute our Backpacks.
Beginning in 2010, The Idaho Foodbank began operating the School Pantry program. The program operates food pantries located inside public schools that offer students and their families easy access to food staples and fresh produce that they know how to prepare and will enjoy. Several of these school pantries will continue to operate this summer.
During the 2019-2020 school year, Idaho had approximately 130,000 children eligible for free and reduced-price lunch, or approximately 43% of children in participating schools. We know that this need does not disappear once summer arrives.
When schools are closed, families can check this website from the U.S. Department of Agriculture to find meals for children: https://www.fns.usda.gov/meals4kids
If families are looking for a free summer meal site for a child in need, they can also text “Food” or “Comida” to 877-877. This will provide information about meal sites where children can access free meals.
After a long year of uncertainty, kids should be able to enjoy their summer break without having to worry about facing hunger.