For Some Kids, Summer is Not a Vacation.

For some Central Florida kids and teens and their families, summer is not necessarily a time for vacation. Instead, this season presents several problems for low-income families, especially those who do not qualify for SNAP.

 1. Central Florida is home to 289,348 students that rely on a nutritious breakfast and lunch through the National School Lunch program during the school year.[1] During the summer, families are responsible for an additional $30 in food per week per child.

2. The average cost of childcare is $173 per week per child in Central Florida – and that’s including subsidized options.[2] Summer camps can be too expensive and parents cannot afford to stay home from work. In many cases, elder children are saddled with the responsibility of caring for their younger siblings.

3. Summer means academic learning loss and playing catch-up when school resumes. Without academic engagement at home, students begin to forget and lose skills obtained during the school year.

Summer Food Service Program

Fortunately, the weight of these burdens is alleviated through programs like the Summer Break Spot, a USDA Summer Food Service Program, that empowers community organizations to partner together to diminish the impact of summertime on low-income kids, teens, and families.

In 2017, Second Harvest Food Bank of Central Florida partnered with 104 sites across six counties to fight hunger, childcare costs, and academic learning loss throughout the summer. Sites had to consider barriers to participation, like transportation, awareness, staffing, home-bound kids and parent/guardian trust in the program. The sites were able to innovate and collaborate on issues like transportation, hosting meals at apartment complexes, community parks and libraries and sending home kid-friendly packs of food for the weekend.

The success that our partners saw this year was phenomenal.

Each site provided access to a hot meal and breakfast or a snack to each child visiting that site. Collectively we served 238,124 meals during the week and provided 3,920 Hi-Five Kid’s Packs to address weekend hunger needs.

While the sites were able to increase their participation by providing hot meals for families, they also offered activities to entertain and engage children in physical activity, educational games, summer tutoring, field trips and more. The 2017 Fresh Games provided an opportunity for youth volunteers (ages 10-12) to host and coordinate nutrition-based activities at 9 summer sites. Other sites, like DeBary’s Bill Keller Park sponsored by Faith Community Church consistently engaged teens from local high schools to host activities and interact with younger kids, while also receiving a meal.

Thanks to innovative partnerships, the 2017 Summer Food Service Program was one of the most efficient and effective at fighting summer hunger in Central Florida. Thank you to the many partners and volunteers that made this feat possible.

Cheyanna Johnson
Child Hunger Corps Fellow

[1] Florida Department of Agriculture and Consumer Services, October 2016.

[2] Beth Kassab, “Child care costs rival college for many parents,” Orlando Sentinel, February 25, 2015.

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