"Are You Going to Be Back Tomorrow?”

By: Tom Nelson
May 25, 2017 12:45 PM ET

That’s what wide-eyed Andrew asked after his first meal at a No Kid Hungry supported summer meals site in Baltimore. When a volunteer assured him that, yes, they’d be back at the same time the next day, Andrew looked up into the volunteer’s eyes while lifting up his pinky and asked, “Pinky swear?

For some kids, summer is a time of joy and freedom. For millions of kids who rely on school for regular meals, however, summer can be a time of hunger and anxiety. Research shows that family grocery costs rise more than $300 a month when school is out and school meals disappear, putting a strain on already-tight budgets. That leaves many families making tough trade-offs; two-thirds of all low-income families say they’ve had to choose between food and utilities, two-thirds also had to choose between food and medical care.

Free summer meals are a lifeline for kids in need. Summer meals programs are funded by the United States Department of Agriculture (USDA); administered by state agencies, such as state departments of education; and run by public and private organizations, including schools, community centers and faith-based organizations. Team No Kid Hungry is hard at work to make sure families know how to find summer meals sites for kids and teens in the summertime.

This summer, it’s as easy as texting FOOD or COMIDA to 877-877 to find free, healthy meals for kids 18 and under in your community. Our summer meals texting program has helped more than 55,000 American families find the nearest summer meal program for their kids.

When the program works well, it’s a lifeline. Today, however, the program just doesn’t reach a majority of kids in need; of the 22 million kids who receive a free or reduced-price school lunch, only 4 million are getting a summer meal. Barriers like transportation, unsafe streets, distance and extreme weather stop millions of kids from accessing the program and getting the food they need.

Thanks to Sodexo Stop Hunger Foundation’s investment and commitment to our work, No Kid Hungry has been conducting innovative summer meals pilots to test the best way to operate a “meals on wheels” style delivery model. We pulled together public-private partnerships and teamed up with food banks, schools, and local nonprofits to take this exciting step forward on behalf of kids who have been shut out by an inefficient system, simply because of where they happen to live.

No Kid Hungry is working to break down other barriers that stand in the way of a hungry kid and a free summer meal. We are building awareness of the program through outreach and advertising, as well as supporting projects to streamline the paperwork burden on community sites offering summer meals.

We are grateful for Sodexo Stop Hunger Foundation’s support of No Kid Hungry and its renewed commitment to partner together and help end childhood hunger in America. There is more work to do but the solution is within our reach. Together, we can create transformative change and ensure a bright future for kids across the nation. To learn more, visit www.NoKidHungry.org.