When local farmer’s crops and backyard vegetable gardens begin to flourish under the summer sun, food seems to be in plentiful supply. So it’s easy to forget that many people are still hungry.
Late summer and early fall pose the year’s most difficult challenge for the Thurston County Food Bank. With summer vacations on people’s minds, food and monetary contributions tend to tumble.
That puts added stress on many low-income families who rely on free and reduced-cost lunches and breakfasts during the school year. For them, the summer months bring increased food anxiety.
The Washington state Summer Food Service Program, also known as Summer Meals, tries to fill that gap. It’s funded by the U.S. Department of Agriculture to provide free, nutritious meals and snacks to children and teens (18 and under) during the long summer break.
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No proof of income or citizenship is required at 19 Summer Meals locations around the South Sound, including the Nisqually Youth Center and the Tu Ha Buits Learning Center in Shelton.
The food bank sponsors many of these sites – along with local cities and tribes – during a period when its donations plummet. That’s one factor reason the food bank must spend more money to buy food during the summer than all the other months combined.
The food bank used to receive enough donations between Thanksgiving and Christmas to carry through to the annual Letter Carriers Food Drive in May, which kept the shelves mostly stocked until fall.
The recession shortened that cycle. The food bank now purchases food year-round, and the late summer gap has grown wider.
We shouldn’t let hunger drop off our radar in the summer. Instead, the joy of enjoying freshly-picked vegetables and fruit and backyard barbecues should remind us to make a contribution to the Thurston County Food Bank. Because others are not so fortunate.