School's Out, But Hunger Isn't Taking A Break

Sunday, July 8, 2007

While the summer offers many children a chance to live free of care and to indulge in a world of fantasy and make-believe ["A Kid's Reality," Metro, June 26], for more than 200,000 children in the Washington area, life becomes not so easy and the enjoyment of summer is overshadowed by a lack of food.

The summer presents us all with challenges on how to guarantee that children and families at risk of hunger have access to nutritious food and three quality meals each day.

When school ends, the federally funded school breakfast and lunch programs are no longer available to ensure that growing children receive those vitally important meals. Subsequently, the demand on food banks and pantries increases as more families seek help during the summer months.

Summer presents the perfect opportunity for the community to rally -- for churches, synagogues, mosques, businesses and civic organizations to host food and funds drives and support their local food banks and pantries. It is a critical time to share our abundance.

Children suffering from hunger have it especially hard, as described by one participant in the Capital Area Food Bank's Face Hunger session, an interactive workshop designed to increase awareness and understanding of hunger and poverty: "I understand now. I understand why my four siblings and I often went without. I understand why I often found my mother crying out to God in despair. Thank you for giving me the opportunity to stand in her shoes. That night, I made a promise to God that I would devote my life to prevent this from happening to others to the best of my ability. I took away so much from that session."

As we sit down to enjoy wonderful fruit, fresh vegetables, grilled foods, freshly squeezed lemonade and strawberry shortcake, we must remember that hunger persists in this land of abundance. More important, we must take action to guarantee that all have enough to eat and access to quality, nutritious meals.

It is important to remember and recognize that children do not stop growing in the summer; and that we as a community must respond to and meet this critical need that happens every day -- three times a day.

-- Lynn Brantley

Glenn Dale

The writer is president and chief executive of Capital Area Food Bank.

© 2007 The Washington Post Company