Summer holiday poses a threat to children facing food insecurityJun 02, 2023 12:58PM ● By Lizzie Walje
While many families are in the stages of solidifying summer plans, another portion of families are faced with a sobering reality—food insecurity.
Generally speaking, most food banks and pantries across the nation experience a surge in donations during the fall and winter months. Unsurprisingly, many people feel compelled to donate during Thanksgiving and Christmastime, as these holidays center around the acts of giving and charity. It goes without saying that donations make an impact, regardless of when they are received. However, food banks and pantries need the most assistance and support during the summer months.
Why is summer a problematic season for those facing hunger? For starters, families struggling with food insecurity often rely on school breakfast and lunch programs to provide meals for their children. Suddenly, during the summer, parents find themselves having to provide additional meals, often times for multiple children. Not only is the demand for food higher, but the resources are lower due to decreased donations. This combination is devastating for those who already struggle to put food on the table.
Back in March, the Utah Food Bank held its inaugural “Feed Utah Day” where volunteers drove from house to house picking up bags of donations on the porches of those who participated. According to the Food Bank, this day couldn’t have come at a more crucial time as summer was approaching and critical governmental programs and safety nets are currently being cut or restructured.
“So many people a month from now will have an issue with food shortages that perhaps they never experienced. We have to be prepared,” said Utah Food Bank CEO Ginette Bott in March.
On top of the usual challenges that occur during summer break, families and individuals who rely on SNAP EBT benefits will see a decrease in their monthly allotment. This is happening due to the conclusion of a pandemic era relief package, that gave SNAP recipients extra food money.
Furthermore, it’s likely that many who have never previously struggled with food insecurity will be pushed to seek assistance this year. According to economists, the United States is on the precipice of a potential recession, which could have significant implications for Utahns and those across the nation. Already many people are seeing signs of trouble, with rising costs of food and major layoffs from businesses.
Here in Utah, lawmakers are in damage control mode as they attempt to increase the budget for various programs that would assist low-income families. Vocal among these politicians is Gov. Spencer Cox who addressed media and onlookers during “Feed Utah Day.”
“We know that there are children hungry in our state. In fact, estimates say between one in nine and one in 10 children will miss a meal,” Cox said.
Cox further reiterated this point by prompting those present to think about hunger in terms of their own children, because oftentimes, those who are fortunate enough to not have to live paycheck to paycheck, don’t realize the size and scope of the problem.
“I want you to envision your child’s classroom. Say they’re in a class of 25, now imagine that three or four of the kids in that classroom are hungry…that is unacceptable,” Cox said.
The process of accepting help is not always easy, especially for families and individuals who have never before needed to rely on any sort of government programs or assistance. However, with staggering inflation, unprecedented cost of living, and a country on the verge of recession, many will find themselves needing care.
Over 500,000 people in Utah are facing some level of food insecurity. This is a staggering statistic given our state only has an overall population of just 3.1 million. Food instability is commonplace, and the effects of hunger are devastating. Especially for our youngest residents who need proper nutrition to fuel their mental and physical development.
“Hunger is everywhere now, in every zip code, and with the lack of affordable housing, more and more people are living paycheck to paycheck and having to make tough choices to feed their families,” Bott said.
There are many programs available to help children and families get the meals they need.
If people are not sure how to locate resources, United Way has set up a phone directory, where one can receive assistance, including locations of food pantries in their immediate proximity. Call 211 during business hours for help. As always, the Utah Food Bank welcomes those who need provisions.
For those who wish to be of service, Bott said that the Utah Food Bank always welcomes donations of food, money or time. The Food Bank also facilitates group projects for those interested in making a difference during hunger’s invisible season. λ