Hunger Awareness Month: For too many kids, summer means hunger

boy looking out school windowToday is the last day of classes for Pittsburgh Public Schools. For too many of these children and others throughout Allegheny County, summer break just means less food.

As the Pittsburgh Post-Gazette reports today, nearly 50,000 public school students in Allegheny County ate free lunches at school this year through the National School Lunch Program, which helps feed the children of low-income families during the academic year.

Without school meals, those families must stretch their small food stamps benefits even further. But SNAP/food stamp benefits already don’t last most participants the whole month – 90% of SNAP benefits are redeemed by the third week of the month. What was a struggle before becomes nearly impossible when school is out.

Summer nutrition programs exist to help these families, and they are gaining ground. But nationally they have a participation rate of only 15% of eligible children, which is why a Washington Senator has introduced the Stop Child Summer Hunger Act.

In Pennsylvania last year, summer nutrition programs reached only one in six students who receive school lunches. The Post-Gazette reports that if those numbers hold for Allegheny County this year,  more than 40,000 children in Allegheny County will be facing fewer or perhaps no daytime meals this summer.

Get Help

Looking for a summer food site near you? Call 2-1-1 (or 888-553-57778) to connect with a United Way operator, text MEALPA to 877-877,  or check out the online map of summer food sites.

Give Help

As we have in years prior, Just Harvest will be working in the coming months to help staff the area federally-funded Summer Food Service Program sites. These are volunteer positions; if you’re interested please apply!

We will also be working to

  • convene community leaders in identifying SFSP (free summer meals) participation barriers and develop a comprehensive plan to improve access;
  • recruit, manage, and train unpaid community volunteers to assist in screening, application assistance, and other areas of need in improving access to anti-hunger programs;
  • apply for non-federal grants that can be combined to improve benefits access assistance activities;
  • and provide nutrition education information and opportunities for low-income households.

Please help make sure no child in this county goes hungry this summer: you can volunteer your time or make a donation and become a Just Harvest member.


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