Summer’s Weight: Bridging the Meal Gap While School is in Recess

Each year, when summer break rolls around, it brings mixed emotions. Kids are excited to be out of school and enjoying time away from alarm clocks, books and tests. But, for many parents – especially moms – the break from the academic year can also generate serious concern.

Despite great strides to close the gender gap, women are still juggling the demands of a full-time job (often contributing just as equally to the finances as their partner) – while also still serving as the primary household manager in charge of assigning and completing chores, overseeing childcare and maintaining the overall budget. In fact, 31% of those who responded to a 2023 Pew survey say they place more value on a woman’s contributions at home than their professional duties.

I can relate. As a mom of four, summer was scary. My kids weren’t always heading to fun activities. They were home.

Beyond my concern that they would set the kitchen on fire, no one was there to regulate how, when or what they ate. And that meant more snacking and a heftier grocery budget. I know many families face this same situation.

According to recent data, the USDA recommends that a family of four set a monthly budget for groceries between $975 to $1,500 – which can quickly spike over the summer.

That’s where summer food service programs, like the one managed by Second Harvest Food Bank of Central Florida, come in. The goal is to bridge the meal gap so that families who are at risk of not being able to afford enough food to eat every day can get the nourishment they need.

Now in our 15th year, our Summer Food Service Program provides more than 100,000 nutritious and delicious breakfasts and lunches to local children at 65 sites – primarily serving communities that are not within walking distance of a school that is also a federally funded Summer BreakSpot.

With one in five children across Central Florida likely to experience food insecurity on any given day of the year, our feeding sites are needed more than ever.

Due to the cost of living, Florida ranks 29th in the country when it comes to affordability. This means that many hardworking families may be struggling to stretch their dollars month-to-month. After covering all the inflexible costs – such as rent or mortgage payments, utilities and insurance – eliminating one or two trips to the grocery store a month can be the easiest way to balance the household budget. But the long-term impacts of those skipped meals can add up quickly.

That’s why our mission at Second Harvest Food Bank is to continue feeding hope over the summer so we can ease the burden for moms and other home managers.

Mom-guilt can be unforgiving. We’re always second-guessing ourselves, asking if we’re doing enough for our kids. My hope is that the Summer Food Service Program can eliminate just one worry for another mom, grandmother or primary caretaker.

But making sure that happens takes community support. To sign up as a volunteer or to financially contribute as a monthly meal-maker, visit www.FeedHopeNow.org.

 

Nancy Brumbaugh is the Chief Food Service Officer at Second Harvest Food Bank of Central Florida. She previously worked in food service in the local school district, driving her passion to bridge the meal gap for kids and families.

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Written by Nancy Brumbaugh

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