Kids in need: Hampton Roads summer food programs

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When you are hungry, can you go into your pantry and find what you need? Is your family fortunate enough to run to the grocery store at any given time to pick up a gallon of milk for morning cereal or a pound of chicken for dinner this evening? Many families struggle to do just that.

According to Feeding America, an organization on a mission to provide food to families who are attempting to cope with food insecurity across the nation, we have families in dire need of community support:

In the United States, more than one out of five children lives in a household with food insecurity, which means they do not always know where they will find their next meal. According to the United States Department of Agriculture (USDA), in 2012, 15.9 million children under 18 in the United States live in this condition – unable to consistently access nutritious and adequate amounts of food necessary for a healthy life.

While we could debate the various individual perceptions as to why this issue exists within our community, it’s more important that we attempt to support the children and their families who cannot adequately provide for their growing family members. When a child is being raised in a food insecure home, it affects many aspects of their lives from their health, mental well-being, and overall morale. If a child attends school hungry, how can they be expected to focus on the task of building a better life for themselves through education?

According to the Commonwealth of Virginia, the Hampton Roads area has a higher food insecurity rate than our state average.

Image courtesy HRFoodbank
Image courtesy HRfoodbank.com

Food insecurity is a harsh reality for young children and families around Hampton Roads, especially in the summer months when they have less access to their school resources like free breakfast and lunch. While some local food banks offer after school snack and backpack programs for weekends during the school year, what happens when a child is out of school for the summer? With this thought in mind, we went on the hunt for local resources to help you feed your kids this summer when they are home for the school break and you are finding it a struggle to meet their nutritional needs.

This national after-school program (Kids Cafe) was created by Feeding America™ and is administered locally by your Foodbank. It is a place where children ages 4 through 18 can go to receive free, nutritious evening meals in a safe, supportive environment. Sites operate in convenient locations in low-income neighborhoods where participating children can walk or bicycle to after school. In this past fiscal year 2013, we served almost 236,000 nutritionally balanced meals and over 61,500 snacks to 2,400 youths at 24 different sites through this program.

S.H.A.R.E. — Self-Help And Resource Exchange, SHARE Hampton Roads is a community building organization that offers nutritious food packages at discounted rates. Each value food package is worth approximately $35-$40, but can be purchased for $20 and two hours of volunteer service of your choice.

… the Virginia Peninsula Foodbank (VPF) prepares over 6,000 hot, nutritionally-balanced meals each week and delivers them to the 30 Kids Cafe sites in the cities of Hampton, Newport News, Poquoson, Williamsburg, and the counties of Gloucester, James City, Mathews, Surry, Isle of Wight and York. Meals are prepared fresh daily by students in the VFP’s Culinary Training Program which is overseen by an executive chef in VPF’s commercial kitchen.

If you are fortunate, but would like to help join the community effort to support the food banks, you can head to the many drop off locations to do just that.

The Foodbank serves eleven municipalities including the cities of Norfolk, Portsmouth, Chesapeake, Suffolk, Franklin, and Virginia Beach as well as the counties of Southampton, Northampton, Sussex, Isle of Wight, and Accomack.

Fortunately, we have a fantastic infrastructure of resources for our community. The key is to keep them up and running and ensure that our community is aware of all the resources open to them during the summer months and beyond.

For more information and a comprehensive listing of Hampton Roads resources in your area – head to their websites:

What community resources have we missed here that might help our Hampton Roads kids?

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