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No School Means No School Lunch for Many Kids

When the school year ends, so do school lunches, for millions of kids, says America’s Second Harvest, which sponsors its second annual Hunger Awareness Day today, June 5.

Syndicated Washington Post columnist David Broder dedicated a column this week to the effort, during which Americans across the country are working to draw attention to the group’s 216 affiliated food banks and rescue programs and as many as 2,000 local hunger-relief charities and agencies. <?xml:namespace prefix = o ns = “urn:schemas-microsoft-com:office:office” /> 
According to America’s Second Harvest, nearly 16 million children ate free or reduced-price lunches through the federal school lunch program last year. But barely one in 10—about 1.8 million kids—participated daily in a summer food service program.

<?xml:namespace prefix = st1 ns = “urn:schemas-microsoft-com:office:smarttags” />America’s Second Harvest is the nation’s largest domestic hunger-relief organization. The group solicits donated food and grocery products that might otherwise go to waste from food and grocery stores and distributes them to hungry people across America. 
More than 23 million Americans–including nine million children–depend on help each year from this national network of food banks and food rescue organizations, community and faith-based charities and government agencies.

Various feeding programs report “many more children in the summer” and increased activity overall during that time of year. 
While the federal government continues to address the problem through programs like food stamps, school lunches and the WIC (Women, Infants and Children) program, many state and local social service agencies are facing cutbacks.

That means a larger burden is falling on non-profit and private sectors, including faith-based charities, which make up the majority of America’s Second Harvest partner agencies. 
Ray Fernandez of the Capital Area Food Bank of Texas told Broder that needs in the Austin food bank rose 47.5 percent last year and 25 percent in the first quarter of this year. The reason, he said, is the “downturn in the economy.” That has prompted many people who were formerly self-sufficient to seek help, putting additional strain on food stamp programs. “It’s getting harder and harder to meet the demand,” he said.

“America has some problems that almost defy solutions,” Broder wrote in his column. “This one does not. It just needs caring people and a caring government working together.”