Amidst the craziness of “is school on or off?” there is an underlying dilemma for many families. School represents a hot meal for their children. No school, no lunch. 30 million children receive hot meals through their school. Of those, 22 million are on some sort of subsidized meal program.
Across the country we have seen schools go through monumental efforts to keep food going out to families in need as school doors closed for COVID. Bus routes running with drop-off points for food. Community check points with supplies. Hats off to those heroes of brown bags that kept students, and often an extra younger sibling, fed through the summer.
Those herculean efforts kept the food chain going to almost 61% of our student families. That is huge. It also means about 40% of our students had to find alternate meals. For many, this was one more drain on a COVID damaged budget.
The COVID toll on food support has been enormous. In our hometown metroplex of Dallas, food distribution events have had cars waiting in line for hours, with the lines stretching miles. Across the state, pantries are reporting their usage has doubled. One statistic showed that growing from 4.2 million to over 8 million visitors. Some pantries have simply not been able to keep up with the increased demand.
All this adds up to hungry kids.
We know hunger impacts a child’s ability to learn. Hungry children can’t focus. Long term malnutrition impacts cognitive development, motor skills and has a psychological impact. We will see the results of COVID hunger for years.