How Summer Hunger Has Changed for Kids During COVID-19

Ever since Tarrant Area Food Bank (TAFB) began operating in 1982, we have been devoted to making sure everyone in our community has food to eat year-round. One of our busiest seasons is the summertime when kids are out of school and can no longer rely on school-provided breakfasts and lunch to stay full and energized. Studies show that one in four children in Texas experiences hunger, and a major cause of that may be because during the summertime, kids lose the access to free meals.

When schools shut their doors in March 2020 due to the risk of COVID-19, the districts scrambled to ensure free meals were still available for students who relied on them. Many schools succeeded by organizing drive through meal distributions with lines of cars that wrapped around the block. Furthermore, some schools like Jack C. Binion Elementary School in Birdville ISD provided emergency boxes for students and their families. In a time of rampant job loss and empty grocery store shelves, many people were thankful for pantry staples and emergency provisions.

Tarrant Area Food Bank has a program called Food for Kids to help children receive better access to nutritious meals, both inside and out of school. The Summer Food Service Program (SFSP) is a May – August effort to supply kids with free meals and snacks they would typically receive from schools. TAFB partners with community centers, churches, YMCAs, and other organizations to create a space for kids to come enjoy a nutritious meal at no cost to the family.

Due to the onset of COVID-19, however, these sites had to transition from sit-down dining to drive through stations for grab-and-go bagged meals. From now until the end of the summer, families can come to one of dozens of weekday meal sites to pick up a breakfast, lunch, or snack with no questions asked.

 

For families like the Hernandez family, these meal sites are critical to support their children’s health over the summer. Victoria Hernandez visits Gateway Church’s North Fort Worth campus to provide her three young kids with delicious, nutritious meals during the week.

Hernandez’s family of growing boys—Noah (11), Joseph (7), and Isaiah (5)—savored the milk, sandwiches, and fresh fruit they received. “Thank you!” said Isaiah, who was all smiles in the back seat of his mom’s car.

COVID-19 safety precautions and the increased need for food have forced a lot of TAFB’s operations to change, but one thing has stayed consistent: there are still a lot of hungry kids who rely on our programs and meals. If you or someone you know has a child aged 1-18 who needs free summer meals, visit https://tafb.org/summer-meals to find a location near you.

Since the onset of COVID-19, TAFB has supplied over 47,020 meals via drive through to kids visiting summer meal sites. With schools unsure about reopening in the fall, the effort to provide students with vital meals is ongoing. To support Food for Kids, make a gift to the Tarrant Area Food Bank and help make sure kids have a Healthy, Hunger Free Summer.

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