Keeping hunger away while school is out

Published 8:31 am Monday, June 19, 2017

This is the first summer for the Carter County School System’s Lunch and Literacy Summer Program. The program operates Monday through Thursday from 11:30 a.m. to 12:30 p.m. during June at designated schools.
Children under 18 are served a free hot meal. Children do not have to be enrolled in the school system to receive the free meal. In addition to the free meal, each child may also select a new or slightly used book to keep and read during the summer.
The free books are intended to keep the school system’s emphasis on improving literacy by encouraging reading during the summer.
This week meals will be served at Happy Valley High School, and during the final week of the program, meals will be served at Unaka High School.
Also serving meals this summer to children is the TLC Community Center, which is in its 15th year of serving meals to children. The program delivers food to all the low-income housing areas, apartment buildings and mobile home parks in Carter County and has been partnering with another group to provide meals in the Bristol area also.
The deliveries usually start around 2:15 p.m. Monday through Friday. The meals are delivered right to where the children live and consist not only of a hot meal for dinner, but also enough other items for the child’s next breakfast and lunch.
Last year, the program served 74,925 meals during the summer, with an average of serving 425 children a day.
National data shows that during the school year 22 million children receive free or reduced-priced meals through the National School Lunch Program, yet only 15 percent receive free meals during the summer.
The end of school might be a welcome respite for children who relish a break from classwork and studies, but it can also be a time of hunger. For some children, programs such as the Carter County Lunch and Literacy Program and the TLC lunches may provide many kids the only full meal of the day during the summer break.
For families that rely on free breakfasts and lunches provided by schools during the school year, sadly, many children end up suffering from hunger during the summer months.
That is why it is so important for families to know that there are many free summer meals available throughout the area for school-age children.
Yes. Free. No questions asked. No proof of residency required. Families from other communities are welcome to come to any site, we’re told by school administrators.
Hunger doesn’t take a vacation, and, though not always visible, child hunger remains a significant problem in the United States, and right here at home. Many families do not have the resources to purchase the food they need.
Although there have been significant improvements in food insecurity among children across the country, the fact remains that 13.1 million children in America are at risk of hunger. According to the Map the Meal Gap report released by Feeding America earlier this month, this includes 315,370 Tennessee children.
Second Harvest Food Bank has set a goal to provide 4 million summer meals for children and their families to help make this a Hunger Free Summer for all. Gifts of food, time and funds help provide for the vulnerable children in our community, even when the school cafeteria is closed.
No child should have to go hungry and the summer program being offered by the Carter County School System is only one way to address the need of feeding insecure children during the summer months.
The Summer Food Program ensures that children in our community have access to nutritious meals and snacks when other resources are not available.

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