US Children Going Hungry In School Holidays

Summer feeding programmes tackling hunger across America say they are seeing are unprecedented demand for free food.

Millions of meals are served every week to children who do not eat properly during the school holidays.

Tennessee is one of many states that has various schemes designed to help youngsters get through the summer.

The Lunch Box is one of them, an old yellow school bus which now doubles as a cafe on wheels, touring around the small town of Rogersville.

Volunteer driver Paul Beckner told Sky News: “Oh yes the need is here – we have kids that come on and that says they don’t have any food in the house.

“We have other kids who come who, regardless of what we give them, eat every bite and are glad to get it – so the need is definitely here.”
More and more kids are clambering on this bus in need of nutritious food. On their route around Rogersville they started the summer serving 90 meals a day, now it is over 130.

While munching a red apple on board the bus, 10-year-old Joseph Gregg said: “Some kids don’t have lots to eat, they have barely any food to eat and they don’t feel well.”

The Lunch Box bus is run by a local church group in Rogersville. They do receive limited US Government funding but also rely on local donations.

While completing the paperwork for the latest rounds, supervisor Brett Trent explained: “We started in 2006 because we knew the problem was here in our town.

“This year more and more new faces have been turning up asking for good food – we’re working hard to serve more food to try and keep up.

“The saddest thing for me is that for the kids it’s just normal, they don’t know any different, it is normal for many of them to be hungry.”
Nationally the Feeding America organisation which helps co-ordinate a countrywide network of food aid told Sky News: “Proper nutrition is vital to the growth and development of children, particularly for low-income children.

“The nation’s economic growth depends on the well-being of our children. As such, the existence of child hunger in the United States threatens future American prosperity.”

In Philadelphia, which has the highest poverty rates amongst America’s larger cities, summer feeding programmes are again very busy.

Last year budget cuts to school based projects meant some schemes were scaled back and 10,000 students had to look elsewhere for free summer meals.

Julie Zaebest of the Greater Philadelphia Coalition Against Hunger told Sky News: “There are over 1,000 locations throughout the city, such as neighbourhood parks, recreation centers, schools and churches.

“Our biggest challenge is making sure every family in the city knows that free summer meals are available and where to find their nearest site.”

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