It’s summer, and students around the country are eagerly awaiting the final day of classes and the start of their summer vacation. It should be a happy and carefree time of year, but for many of the 22 million students who receive free or reduced-price meals in school – sometimes the only guaranteed meals of the day –  the end of classes marks the beginning of a long period of food insecurity. For the parents, many of whom struggle financially, the end of school marks the start of seeing higher weekly grocery bills in an already tight budget and, for parents of smaller children, higher child care costs. Single-parent households, a growing segment of the population, are the most vulnerable to food insecurity.  

“31.6 percent of households with children headed by single women, experienced food insecurity, significantly higher than the 12.3 percent national average.” USDA 2016 Report on Food Security in the US


For children with not enough to eat, the long summer days only exacerbate the problem. Without a good breakfast kids run out of energy easily making it hard to enjoy the outdoors. By lunchtime the hunger pangs or stomach growling begins. The summer sun sets long after dinner time. If there’s no dinner, the passing of time can be excruciatingly slow. Even sleeping, a coping device many children use to forget they’re hungry, is difficult while the sun is still up.  

This coming Thursday, June 21st, will be the longest day of 2018. For the hungry, it will be even longer.


While at its worst in the summer months, childhood hunger is a year round problem, according to the USDA over 13 million children in the US face hunger at one time or another during the year.

If you know a family with children that face food insecurity, you can make them aware of the hundreds of Summer Meals sites all across the country. This sites offer free breakfast and lunch to children 18 years or younger.  

Many sites also provide educational activities to help kids stay mentally sharp while school is out. A list of Summer Meal Sites can be found at the USDA’s Summer Food Rocks website.  If there is not a summer meal site in your area, inquire about starting one.

The United Way’s toll free 2-1-1 line puts people in touch with a multitude of local resources – from food programs to housing and healthcare. The call is confidential and available 24 hours a day and can be used to request help or offer to volunteer.

Donations. You can donate your time (and vehicle) to transport children without access to a summer meal site to one. Local food pantries are always in need of monetary or food donations, to find one in your area use the pantry finder.  Also, many faith based and community organizations hold food packing events and advertise for volunteers.

The learn more about the issue of summer nutrition read the Food Research & Action Center’s report Hunger Doesn’t Take a Vacation.