Hunger groups get creative while U.S. schools out for summer

Wed Jul 2, 2014 8:10am EDT
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By Daniel Kelley

NEWARK Del. (Reuters) - Hunger relief workers are getting creative at keeping small bellies full when U.S. schools - along with their free or reduced-price meals - close for summer.

An old logging camp in Oregon, a book mobile in Kentucky, and a karate studio in Delaware are just some of the unusual venues being used to gather low-income rural or suburban kids and hand out the food they need to get by until school cafeterias re-open in September.

George Lunski distributes about 700 meals a week to kids along a 40-mile (64-kilometer) route near Newark, Delaware. His stop-off points include the leasing offices of a low-income housing development, a riverfront park, a karate studio, and the driveway of a non-profit organization.

“I never knew there were so many people in need,” said Lunski, a retired production supervisor at a local chemical plant.

Lunski, who delivers meals from a van loaded with coolers, said the Food Bank of Delaware's Summer Food Service Program was "really an eye-opener" about how widespread poverty is in the ninth richest U.S. state.

For families that rely on free or reduced-price lunch or breakfast, summer can mean the loss of 10 meals per week per child, advocates for the poor say, a cost many working poor families cannot afford.

A variety of programs across the country have sprung up to replace those lost calories, but they tend to be underutilized.

Nationally, only one in seven children who receive free or reduced-price lunch during the school year take advantage of the summer meals programs, according to Food Research and Action Center, an anti-hunger advocacy group. Delaware has a better response, at one in five.   Continued...