There could possibly be hungry children living next door to you, children who get less to eat in the summer than they do they rest of the year.
For a moment, forget about the sad and teary-eyed youngsters on television commercials in which sponsors plead for donations to get food to children in some faraway land. The plight of hungry children right here in America is more burdensome in the summer, when schools are closed. The other nine months of the year, poor children at least get one meal: in school at lunchtime.
But out of the 15 million youngsters who qualify for the national free or reduced-priced school lunch program, only 3 million are lucky enough to get a government-sponsored meal during the summer. Records from 1999 show that only 12 percent of Ohio's low-income children get nutritious meals in June, July, and August. Every day last summer, 1,850 youngsters were fed at feeding program sites in Lucas County.
The figures are unsettling and they should embarrass northwest Ohioans. On one hand many children are overweight and are subject to years of fighting heart disease, cancer, and other maladies associated with obesity. Kids who don't have to eat junk food but do so because they like it gain weight. It's also true of kids who eat junk food because they have no other food to eat.
Then there are the children who lose weight and don't grow because they don't get enough to eat in summer. That's abnormal.
Anti-hunger activists trying to get more groups to fund feeding programs face an uphill battle. Running a federal feeding program isn't easy. Preparing and distributing the food is one thing, but sponsors also have to keep records for the government. Small nonprofit organizations are easily overwhelmed. It's a lot of work, but somebody has to help address this problem.
Feeding programs that open in the summer deserve commendation, but it's still tough on the kids when the programs close their kitchens for a break before schools reopen. There's nowhere for those children to go for a nutritious meal.
Many hungry children are anxious for schools to open. Not because they want to learn, but because they want to eat.