Good nutrition is just as much, if not more a concern during the summer months for children, as during the school year. There are the milder concerns that parents and caregivers face. I sometimes believe if my children had their way, they would turn into cheddar fish, pirate booty, and gummies. Like most parents, we do our best to monitor what’s being eaten and served at mealtime. Yet with ever growing children and appetites, it sometimes seems like our children are forever hungry. It is very easy to keep handing out crackers and cheddar popcorn, but what about the nutritional stakes? These formative years that grow the body and mind are too short to eat unwisely.
Summer time is a fabulous time of the year to eat well. From your personal garden to farmer’s markets, there are incredible things to grow, buy, and eat. Well known blogger Anna Luther shares some of her favorite healthy eating ideas for summer at her blogs site, “My Life and Kids.” From cutting up fruits and vegetable for easy grazing at the beginning of the week and building fruit kabobs on sticks to gluten free power muffins and hard boiled eggs, she has some great ideas on how to stock your house with healthy snacks for your ever hungry children.
There are also the more serious nutrition concerns that children face in this country. A recent article at the National Public Radio website entitled “Summer Program for Hungry Kids Gets Creative With Food Delivery” discusses the serious nutrition issues facing children at or near poverty, today. Per this report, more than 21 million children get free or reduced lunches during the school year. Yet during this summer, this drops to 3 million. Certainly, the need has not gone away. There is a growing impoverished population in this country, with many folks, including the working poor, being food poor or food insufficient.
Some problems may lie with program design. The article discusses how there are less formal mechanisms in place for summer meal programs and the various challenges that agencies face. Any child can receive a lunch, no questions asked, as long as they live in an area where at least fifty percent of the school age population receives a free or reduced lunch during the school year. Perhaps families do not know when and if they qualify? Or the challenge may lie where poverty exists.
It is also not always easy to operate such programs in rural areas, because of geography, isolation, lack of transportation, and the poor dissemination of information about such services. Kentucky has taken some novel approaches to reach affected children. From book mobiles to pickup trucks that are dispatched to the most rural and hard to reach areas, programs in Kentucky are making inroads in carrying out this summertime program. The article also discusses some of the challenges of urban poverty. In heavily crime ridden areas, parents may be hesitant to let their child leave their home or apartment, for fear for her safety. Some summer nutrition programs are being rolled out right at public housing sites.
What about your area? If you go to the “Why Hunger” website, you can plug in your information and find out where the nearest summertime meal program is operating. No one should go hungry or subsist on nutritionally inadequate foods, just to survive! These programs go far in placing better foods in the households of families who need them. The need is growing! For those of us who are more fortunate there is always the opportunities to volunteer or provide donations to local food pantries or food banks.