For 14 years, Terrance Judge has watched his youth basketball teams play hungry.
They’d come to play as a part of MetroBall, a program that started to quell neighborhood beefs through games of hoops that has grown to a summer basketball extravaganza. Some of the most popular Saturdays would be when organizers use money from their own pockets to grill hot dogs and hamburgers at the New York Avenue playground, a respite in a city where it’s estimated that one in three families cannot afford to feed their children. Summer can be the worst time — one national study estimates that it costs families $300 more a month to provide meals during the season.
But a far-reaching, city-wide expansion of summer feeding programs this year has made teenagers at MetroBall jump a little higher. The program is now one of 23 sites involved in the city’s summer feeding program, according to Victoria Holmes, a spokeswoman for the city’s Office of the State Superintendent. Last year, there were 12. So, each Saturday, the city now delivers sandwiches, fruits and vegetable to games.
“They are looking forward to those meals and go through them very fast,” said Judge, co-founder of the program, which enlists about 500 players each summer. “These kids come here to play; they don’t have any money or have anything to eat. It’s really saved us time and money and everything.”
It’s just one of several efforts in the city to help provide more stable access to food. The city has also increased the number of parks, churches and libraries that serve supper to children during the weekdays, as well as those serving breakfast and lunch during the weekend — going beyond the traditional idea of serving lunch in the schools.
The result, according to early information from the Capital Area Food Bank, is a massive increase in the number of young people being fed daily from their food supply during the month of July. Check out this chart:
Those numbers represent a 48 percent increase in the number of children being fed by the bank during July.
Expanding summer meals is one of the ways the city had tried to address the impact of cuts to the federal food stamp program, Holmes said. Families are now receiving 5 to 8 percent less in food stamps than they did last year.
The cuts came as the need for access to clean and healthy food continues to grow in the District. Martha’s Table, a nonprofit service organization, began working this year with Arcadia Mobile markets to distribute inexpensive produce to areas where residents don’t have many healthy food options.
Meanwhile, the working poor and the elderly continue to use food pantries in increasing numbers, according to Nancy Roman, executive director of the Capital Area Food Bank, which supplies food to about 500 of the area’s service organizations. The result has been increased efforts to secure donations from various groups, which use all sorts of techniques to get people to donate. (For example, a group of law firms held several competitions to raise money, including a competition for who could come up with the best joke.)
In July, the bank distributed more food than they did last year. Check out this chart:
Those numbers represent a 23 percent increase over last year.
“It’s sad to see how much need there is, but we’re really committed to meeting the need effectively and really emphasizing, not just pounds of food but nutritious pounds,” Roman said.
For places serving summer meals, check out this map.