More than 12 million children in the United States live in food insecure households  — and many of them experience hunger in the summertime when they don’t have access to free or subsidized meals or snacks through school.

The hunger problem in the US is not a supply problem. There is more than enough food in the country to feed all its hungry. The issue is making that food affordable and accessible — it’s a solvable problem that organizations like Share Our Strength are working to address through its No Kid Hungry campaign.

No Kid Hungry is working with elected officials, educators, nonprofits, and businesses — including Citi — to end hunger and eliminate the barriers that prevent children from accessing existing nutrition resources, including lack of transportation, infrastructure, and awareness of programs.

Children who rely on meals through school may struggle to get enough to eat during the summer, making it a critical time for such programs. No Kid Hungry says 6 out of 7 hungry children don’t get enough food during the summer. 

But through its Share Summer awareness initiative, No Kid Hungry is helping families and community members find free meals for kids during the summer. Its text service allows people to find summer meals sites near them by sending a simple text message. Since launching the text service three years ago, No Kid Hungry says it has helped more than 800,000 families find free summer meals for kids.

“No Kid Hungry is making sure every kid has access to three meals a day, especially during the summer, which can be the hungriest time of the year for kids that rely on school meals,” says Jill Davis, senior vice president of corporate partnerships at Share Our Strength. “Together, with the support of partners like Citi, we can create a nation where every child gets the nutrition they need to grow up healthy and strong.”

Many low-income families feel additional financial strain in the summer, when school breakfast and school lunch are no longer available.

Romelia, a mother of four children between the ages of 1 and 12 in Burlington, Colorado, said she spends an extra $200 on groceries in the summer.

“It seems like my kids eat constantly,” she told No Kid Hungry. “Around the clock, they're just eating and drinking and of course, being outside running and everything, they come back in, refill. The two weeks that we do go grocery shopping, it doesn't last.”

Her husband, Efran, is a farmer, and the family lives on their host farmer’s land, five miles from the heart of their small rural town. Romelia said the family only goes into town when they truly need to, including to go grocery shopping, and in order to afford more food in the summertime has to cut down on other expenses.

But the Prairie Family Center, one of No Kid Hungry’s local partners, helps deliver food directly to families like Romelia’s to reduce the time and cost they would otherwise have to spend to feed their children.

Initiatives like summer meals help to reduce these costs for families who can least afford them.

Read More: Why America's Largest Agricultural State Is Also Its Hungriest

In 40% of households with low food security, people said they had skipped or downsized their meals to make ends meet — some went entire days hungry. For kids, that hunger can be extremely disruptive, making it difficult to concentrate in school and negatively impacting health and development.

Ensuring that children have access to enough nutritious food during the summer also helps prepare them for the upcoming school year. Teachers reported a noticeable difference on the first day of school between kids who had enough to eat over the summer and those who hadn’t, No Kid Hungry says.

Ending child hunger won’t just close the food insecurity gap between kids who have enough to eat and those who don’t, it will also empower children to gain the most out of school and reach their full potential.

If you, your family, or someone you know needs to locate a free summer meal text “FOOD” or “COMIDA” to 877-877 to find a nearby meal site.


Defeat Poverty

A Simple Text Message Can Help Hungry Kids Find Free Meals in the Summer

By Daniele Selby