Summer meal program fills local need

We’re going to make an assumption.

We’re going to assume most of you reading this right now are very food secure.

You probably ate a meal recently – breakfast, lunch or dinner. You are probably anticipating, with a strong degree of certainty, your next meal. If you get hungry between meals, you probably have access to a snack. If you don’t like the food you have on hand at your home or office, you can probably jump in your car and run to the grocery store or a local restaurant and purchase whatever food is tempting your taste buds at the moment.

This is not reality for everyone, though.

The summer can be an especially challenging time, food-wise, for a large portion of our population: our local children.

See, many – if not most – local children receive free breakfast and lunch during the school year. The meals provided by our school systems’ child nutrition departments ensure each student is receiving nutritious, filling plates that keep them going throughout the day.

These meals must be a godsend particularly for families struggling financially. We’re all feeling the pinch at the grocery store to some extent, and when your budget is already tight, any uptick in the price of food can be a trigger for concern. Meals served by our schools take some of that pressure off parents who are carefully stretching each dollar as far as it will go.

Then comes that summer break. While for many it’s a welcome opportunity to soak up long sunny days, take family vacations, enjoy holidays together and shed a few responsibilities, for others it’s a season of suddenly having children home all day, every day – ravenous children who are constantly snacking, eating everything in sight. All those outdoor activities, the fun in the sun, mean children are working up big appetites – and parents are on the hook for two extra meals plus snacks, five extra days per week.

That’s why Franklin County Schools’ summer meal program is so needed.

Meals will be served at Belgreen, East Franklin, Phil Campbell, Red Bay, Tharptown and Vina Monday through Thursday, with breakfast from 7:30-9:30 a.m. and lunch from 10 a.m. to noon for much of the summer: June 5-8, 12-15, 20–22 and 26-29 and July 10-13 and 17-20.

All meals are free and served to children ages 0-18. Students do not have to attend a Franklin County school to participate.

According to Break for a Plate, which is the federally-funded, state-administered Summer Food Service Program through which the meals are provided, the stats tell the story:

  • 1 in 5 U.S. children lack enough nutritious food.
  • 1 in 4 Alabama children live in families with food hardships.
  • Nearly 60 percent of Alabama public school children eat free/reduced school lunches.
  • Nationally, more than 10 million children – nearly 1 in 7 – lived in poverty in 2019.
  • The child poverty rate is 1.5 times that for adults 18-64 and adults 65 and older.
  • Alabama is the nation’s sixth poorest state, with 300,000 children living in poverty.
  • From 2010-2020, Alabama lowered the food insecurity rate by 3 percent.
  • The number of organizations providing children’s meal locations tripled across the state from 2014 to 2020.

We’re thankful this avenue is available to local children so no one goes hungry this summer.

Additionally, a number of Russellville students will benefit from RCS’ program that provides meals for students who are already on campus for summer activities.

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