Feeding America, an organization that works to provide food to millions of Americans every year by way of food banks, reports, "The number of children facing hunger in the United States rose during …
Feeding America, an organization that works to provide food to millions of Americans every year by way of food banks, reports, "The number of children facing hunger in the United States rose during the pandemic - from more than 10 million children in 2019 to nearly 12 million children in 2020."
According to Krista Hesdorfer, a Child Nutrition Programs Specialist for Hunger Solutions New York, a non-profit that focuses on lessening hunger in the state, approximately "18.8 percent of children in Sullivan County experienced food insecurity in 2019. So almost one in five."
Food insecurity has been shown to affect a child's mental and physical development, further impacting their ability to learn and grow. The COVID-19 pandemic has, according to Hesdorfer, further exacerbated this mounting crisis in the United States.
However, many school districts and childhood programs are working tirelessly to ensure that every child is fed, especially once the school year has ended.
“We know that summertime especially is a really challenging time for families with children because the kids lose access to healthy school breakfast and lunch,” states Hesdorfer. "And now, this summer, families are also facing rising prices at the grocery stores. So that's where the summer meal programs come in to help fill in that nutritional gap when kids lose access to school meals."
Sullivan BOCES Food Service Director, Dawn Parsons, has been working with school districts and sites throughout Sullivan County for more than twenty years to ensure that all children receive adequate and reliable meals all year-round.
“Summer Meals have been going on here for quite a few years,” states Parsons. “Once the districts realized that we have a need to feed our kids because a lot of our kids don't have food… it's been imperative to have the summer meals program.”
Although Parsons has seen the benefit of offering summer meals to all children under 18 regardless of school status, the last few years have been challenging.
“In general, it's tough to find sites that are willing to stick to the regulations. It's very important that we follow all the rules that the USDA and New York State Education Department hand out to us as far as accountability,” Parsons explained.
Other challenges she has faced include managing the program's budget line by not overproducing meals that may be wasted and finding staff and volunteers to distribute meals during the summer months.
The pandemic has forced the program to cease serving meals in certain parts of the county, but Parsons is working to revitalize the program this year.
However, the costs related to inflation and supply chain delays have proven to be even more straining.
With soaring diesel prices, “we can't get second deliveries or backup deliveries from our vendors. They're experiencing major supplier issues. So, it's a wicked chain.”
To help combat these issues, Hunger Solutions New York has been working to push legislation to extend the USDA waiver authority for Child Nutrition Programs to allow for some continued.
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