North Texas Food Bank is working to ensure no child goes hungry this summer

The one in five children who face hunger in North Texas can struggle even more during summer break.

Children are more likely to face hunger in the summer when they don’t have access to school meals. That’s why the North Texas Food Bank works with around 500 local partners to help provide meals to children and families during this time.

Ana loves having her grandchildren home with her, but it does present one added challenge: Their family needs more groceries.

When the two grandkids who live with her are in school, they receive free lunch each day. During breaks, it’s a challenge to afford all of the meals and snacks they need, especially as the cost of food, housing and other bills has climbed in the last few years.

“When the kids are home more, they eat more,” Ana says. “The food prices keep going up every time we visit the grocery store. Our rent prices go up every year.”

Thankfully, she says, they saw an announcement online earlier this year about a food distribution by a North Texas Food Bank partner, and she’s now able to visit regularly for fresh produce plus pantry staples, including canned goods and snacks. “It’s so helpful,” says Ana, who lives in Rice, which is about 40 miles south of Dallas.

Ana is not alone. New data from Feeding America’s Map the Meal Gap study shows that nearly 778,000 people face hunger in the 13 counties served by the North Texas Food Bank, including one in five children. As school closes for the summer each year, those families are faced with replacing the free or reduced-price meals their children receive on campus during the school year—sometimes up to 10 meals per week for each child.

“Summer break should not be filled with worry and hunger,” says NTFB President and CEO Trisha Cunningham. “That is why the NTFB works with around 500 feeding partners to help provide meals to children and families, so they can stay nourished, active and healthy through the summer and enjoy summer as it should be.”

Ana loves having her grandchildren home in the summer, but it does present a challenge: needing more groceries. That’s why she regularly visits a NTFB partner to receive fresh produce, pantry staples, canned goods and snacks.

Annually, the NTFB provides children with access to more than 50 million meals. Of those, around 1.8 million are distributed through 40 school pantry sites and nearly 730,000 through NTFB’s Food 4 Kids program, which provides children with a bag full of food meant to last them through the weekend. Pantries operate at campuses where at least 90% of students qualify for free or reduced-priced meals.

In the summer months, about half of those school pantries remain operational, including many at NTFB’s college partners, which serve both students and the larger community, says Tyler Miller, NTFB program specialist who is over child programs. Food 4 Kids bags are also still distributed, with families being asked to pick them up from a partner agency, such as Sharing Life, rather than their school.

Catherine Gonzalez, a school counselor at Dallas ISD’s Julius Dorsey Leadership Academy, says with their pantry closed during the summer, she’s glad there are several other NTFB partners in the area she can refer families to for resources. She knows from watching children during the school year what a positive difference it makes when families receive food, and she wants to make sure they’re not going without just because classes are not in session.

Parent volunteers, like the ones pictured here at Peabody Elementary School, are crucial to the success of NTFB’s school pantry distributions.

“Some of our families rely on the school for the majority of their meals,” she says, adding that DISD also provides snacks to families during the summer as well as meals to students enrolled in summer school. 

Like Gonzalez, Cunningham says the NTFB knows the impact having access to food has on families, which is why they work hard to ensure partner pantries and community organizations are equipped to serve their neighbors throughout the year.

“Food insecurity is a complicated issue. Feeding our neighbors facing hunger is not,” she says. “Together with the community’s support, we can ease the burden for our neighbors facing hunger now and into the future, creating thriving communities, brighter futures and lasting change.”

This article appeared in the Dallas Morning News as part of a FWD DFW sponsored post on May 24.