Make it a Meaningful Summer: Help Feed Kids in Need

Jun 18, 2024 | by Major Pauline Dressler

School’s almost out, which means fun and continued learning for many young people, but hunger and isolation for many more. Hunger among children is a serious problem that impacts millions, especially during the summer months when school meals aren’t being provided. It is estimated that 22 million kids experience summer hunger each year in America. According to U.S. Census data, nearly 36 million young people received school lunches in 2021. The school year ending will take away the option of free lunches for many New York children.

Now, families must figure out how to afford another week’s worth of meals on top of rising utility costs and rent. Hunger is more prevalent in households with children, which is why soup kitchens and food pantries like the ones The Salvation Army operates throughout New York and the U.S. are imperative.

Over the past year, 79% of New Yorkers say it’s become harder to afford groceries and 85% said the cost of food was rising faster than their income. Studies show food insecurity not only impacts educational performance, but also has mental and emotional repercussions. In fact, it’s directly associated with multiple indicators of poor mental health, particularly “psychological distress,” putting children at risk for emotional and behavioral issues.

Many of the families we serve represent low-income working people. These parents and caregivers often hold two or three jobs, yet are still below the national poverty level. We see countless struggling to put food on their tables due to inflationary factors, much higher food costs, housing prices, interest levels, and exorbitant childcare costs.

In New York, we served a staggering 9.8 million meals, a 78% increase over meals served in 2022 and a 180% increase over pre-Covid levels. We never could have anticipated that the demand for food would skyrocket to such levels, with the utilization of food pantries and soup kitchens in NYC seeing a drastic rise from pre-pandemic times.

There is hope, however. Our nonprofit and a multitude of others are at work every day helping people live healthy, happy and productive lives. We not only serve food, but provide childcare and afterschool programs so caregivers and parents can continue working. Our new Pathway of Hope program offers more intensive case management to support families by breaking intergenerational poverty. Our social workers work side by side with families to help them secure jobs, drivers’ licenses and places of residence so that they can work towards a better and brighter future.

We cannot continue to feed nearly 10 million New Yorkers alone. We rely on the generosity of our donors and volunteers who transform our soup kitchens and food pantries into warm and welcoming spaces where individuals can receive a nourishing meal.

This summer, New Yorkers can support The Salvation Army's food pantries and soup kitchens by donating to ensure that no New Yorker has to go hungry. Additionally, individuals can make a meaningful impact by volunteering their time and supporting efforts aimed at protecting vulnerable children and families who rely on our services the most.

A donation of $105 covers the cost of providing a week's worth of meals for a family of four, offering crucial support and providing parents with the peace of mind that their children will have nutritious food on the table.

We hope you’ll join us in fighting child hunger this summer. Together, we can bring hope and health to those who are most compromised.

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