In the United States, millions of children depend on schools for the school day. Most schools are closed for three months over the summer, meaning a lot of these children could be getting less to eat.
In the Washington, D.C. area, a non-profit group has found a way to provide food to boys and girls over the summer months. The group brings meals to them in a converted school bus.
Laura Juarez Crus and her three children live in a mobile home park in northern Virginia. She says many of her neighbors have low-paying jobs or none at all.
“There’s a lot of people who don’t work, and it’s hard to have the kids at home at the house asking for food.”
Like more than 21 million students across the country, her children receive meals for free or at very small cost at school. When classes end, however, so do the meals.
To reach youngsters like these in the D.C. area, the Capital Area Food Bank launched a feeding bus. The group operates the program in partnership with a local grocery store. The feeding bus started making trips to needy communities in June, when school ended.
“When they (kids) see the bus coming, they are happy. They like fruits.”
Cecelia Vergatti is with the Capital Area Food Bank. She helped launch the program.
“So we knew there were pockets of poverty – and there would be pockets of children – that could really use this food. And so hence, the bus idea was born.”
To identify where the bus should visit, the food bank built what it calls a “hunger map.” It shows many neighborhoods that lack summer feeding programs.
Sixteen million children belong to families that are considered food insecure. Last year, the U.S. government fed more than three million such children. Many others were in need of services like the Food Bank’s bus.
The federal summer food program has been feeding children since 1975. At first, its goal was to provide food for areas like summer camps and community center programs. In such places, about a third of the children receive free or reduced priced meals during the school year.
Audrey Rowe works for the United States Department of Agriculture, which directs the federal summer food service program.
“But it wasn’t created with enough flexibility to address the changes that may happen within the way the schools operate or the intentions of communities and how they provided programs.”
She adds that fewer children are going hungry now because the agency has many more new partners.
One of those partners is the Capital Area Food Bank. It has the ability to reach communities beyond the government program’s target. It brings meals to housing developments and mobile home parks.
Seven-year-old Lucy Velasquez-Castro lives in a mobile home.
“They make sure you eat a lot. It’s so good. My favorite food is apple.”
The program makes sure she has a large supply of apples, and other healthy foods, all summer long.
I’m Jim Tedder.
Janet Weinstein reported on this story from Washington D.C.. Triwik Kurniasari adapted it for Learning English. George Grow was the editor.
converted – adj. relating to a change in purpose; former
grocery – n. fruits, vegetables and other foods
pockets – n. small areas or groups that are different from the larger group
insecure – adj. not well protected
flexibility – n. the ability to change or move