It’s July, and we can all remember shaking off the academic mantle and feeling the freedom of summer. Even as adults, there’s a halcyon feel to the end of June. Our cares seem to lessen, and our moods seem to lift. We get out more, we relax more, and we eat more. Jersey corn and tomatoes have arrived and even sitting in traffic getting down to the shore doesn’t seem that daunting. It’s summer, and the living is easy.
That is, unless you’re one of approximately 516,704 children in the state who are eligible for school meal programs that provide daily nutrition during the school year. For these children and their families, summer can be a long stretch of hunger and uncertainty. When school ends, many receiving free and low-cost meals through their schools struggle to find enough food to make it through the day.
To fill the gap, there are many Summer Meal Programs available to low-income communities throughout NJ. 84,000 New Jersey children, on an average day in July 2016 (only 21% of those who qualify), had breakfast and/or lunch through these programs. And while we’ve seen increases across the board, efforts are underway to improve the number of overall meals and children served.
To encourage participation, organizations providing meal assistance are combining them with free recreational and learning activities offering a safe place for kids and teens. And it’s not just kickball. There are academic programs preparing children for September’s new school year. Meals and services like these will be available in 2017 at many of the 1400 expected sites. Local, county and state organizations are working to create greater awareness. This year, families can text “FOOD” to 877877 to find meal sites close to them.
But, there is one thing that can be relied upon in summer. The local agencies, shelters and pantries that consistently serve the community will see an increase in visits from families with children out of school. Regardless of what is happening on the state or federal level, the service providers within each community will respond to the increased need and weather the drain on resources in order to help as many of their neighbors as they can.
These organizations, and the individuals who seek their services, can rely on Table to Table’s trucks to be on the road, each and every season of the year, working diligently with sponsors and partners to deliver as much fresh food as possible to meet the need. Because hunger never takes a day off, neither does Table to Table.
We invite everyone who might have vacation days to use this summer to learn more about what Table to Table does in the community. Participate by volunteering at our Mobile Market, riding in one of our trucks for the day, or hosting a Bag a Lunch, Help a Bunch event at your company or organization. School’s out for summer should be a reason for everyone to cheer!