Child hunger remains a significant problem in many communities, especially in areas where many people in the community live in poverty. Although affording food is a major issue, there are other concerns that communities can fix or supplement to help reduce child hunger.
Accessibility to food can be a major hurdle in communities, even if people in the community receive help from programs like the Supplemental Nutrition Assistance Program (SNAP). Many communities do not have major grocery stores, leaving people reliant on small community stores that are often overpriced and lack fresh food. People who have access to transportation may be willing to drive a van that allows multiple people to go to a grocery store at once. The community and its representatives should work to attract grocery stores to the area. If the community can establish a need for the store and show that many people would shop there regularly, this might be incentive enough for a major retailer to want to come to the area. Additionally, some states may have grants or other incentives to attract grocery stores to particular, underserved areas.
Community gardens are another option to reduce childhood hunger and help educate the community simultaneously. The objective of a community garden is to give the community access to fresh, healthy food. Families that participate in the program exchange their services in maintaining the garden for receiving items once the fruit and vegetables grow. Community gardens do not need to be limited to food. Growing flowers also has advantages. Flowers attract insects that help pollinate the plants and the same flowers can be collected and bundled for selling at a farmer's market, with the proceeds going back into the garden. Extra fresh produce can be sold to other people in the community who did not directly participate in the management of the garden.
Many children who are food insecure rely on free or reduced-price breakfast and lunch at school. The summer months are especially hard on families and children are more likely to go hungry all day. Establishing summer programs to feed children during these times can fill a significant gap. One way to find supplemental food is to work with restaurants and stores in the surrounding area. They can donate leftovers and other items that would normally go to waste to help feed children throughout the summer.
Many summer food programs are integrated with forms of enrichment. Having accessible locations for summer programs where children can have lunch, learn about different subjects, go on field trips, play sports, and/or engage in crafts not only fills a food gap but can improve the community. A summer program may give children something to do throughout the summer. In areas where crime is a concern, keeping children off the street during the summer may prevent them from getting into trouble or hanging with the wrong crowd. Summer programs also help families who have no options for childcare during the summer.
There are many strategies you can implement in your community to reduce the instance of child hunger. Although access to social programs can help, there are many families that do not qualify, yet they still find that keeping food on the table is difficult.
To help end child hunger, contact a humanitarian aid office in your area.