At the end of a school year that looked and felt like no other, children across the country are eagerly awaiting summer recess.
For millions of youths, however, summer too often means missing meals that they would have otherwise received at school.
Feeding Westchester, the county’s largest nonprofit hunger-relief organization, is gearing up for an increase in demand among families with school-aged children and challenges the community to get involved by participating in its Summer Help From Home Bags program.
Hunger affects the human body in many ways, including making it hard to think clearly and increasing the risk for chronic diseases. In children, growling stomachs result in a higher risk of behavioral and cognitive issues, mental disorders, as well as long-term health threats like asthma.
“Proper nutrition is crucial for a child’s mental, emotional and physical development,” said Kelly Pearson, nutrition resource manager at Feeding Westchester. “In addition to children who don’t get enough to eat, low nutrient dense diets can also lead to poor health outcomes, such as nutrient deficiencies, malnutrition, anemia and risk for developing obesity.”
During the school year, 22 million U.S. children have access to free or reduced-cost meals at school. Surprisingly, fewer than four million children nationally receive similar meals through USDA Summer Food Service programs, leaving a gap of 18 million children.
To help meet the increased summertime need, Feeding Westchester will continue to assemble and deliver free meals and food through organizations like the United Way of Westchester & Putnam, the Boys & Girls Club of Mount Vernon and the Ossining and Elmsford school districts.
“Last summer, Feeding Westchester provided more than 5.6 million meals to children and families facing hunger,” said Karen C. Erren, the nonprofit’s president and CEO. “This summer, we continue on our commitment to ensure that youth in every corner of Westchester have access to the meals they need to thrive during and out of school. We are looking to the community to join us in our fight against hunger.”
While in-person opportunities continue to be limited due to the pandemic, Feeding Westchester has several Meals 4 Neighbors virtual volunteering projects on feedingwestchester.org. Designed to try at home, with co-workers or a local community group, these projects include packing Help From Home breakfast or lunch bags for school-aged children.
Feeding Westchester’s Summer Help From Home Bags can be assembled at home and dropped off at Feeding Westchester in Elmsford. For details on what to include, visit https://bit.ly/34dHmfB.
Every $1 donated to Feeding Westchester provides up to three meals for local children, seniors and families struggling with hunger.