By An Anonymous Blogger for Second Harvest Food Bank of Northwest NC
“I’m new to the parenting thing. Last year I became stepmom to a sweet, funny, rapidly growing ‘tween,’ and the surprises are endless! When school let out last year, it hit me that he’d be at our house all day on most weekdays, unlike the school year when we mostly have him for overnights. So, in an attempt to be prepared – and to be liked – I set out to stock the shelves for summer. On my first semi-weekly shopping trip I picked up extra cereal, milk, frozen pizzas, sandwich fixings, chips, fruit, yogurt, soda…when I was done, the bill was almost twice what I expected. Oh. Wow. I vowed to back off a bit next time. Five days later, he had eaten it ALL. Oh my. The whole summer was a learning curve.
This summer, things will be different. Our kid’s still sweet and funny, but he’s 12 and about four inches taller. We are the reluctant owners of several new appliances, a new-to-us car and a new roof, none of which we anticipated. And we’ve lost more than half our income. Things happen.
The shopping lists that filled me with exasperation last year fill me with dread today. Increasing our food budget isn’t an annoyance or an adjustment – it’s simply not possible. We’ve established that convenience foods and sodas are an unnecessary and unhealthy luxury, but we can’t make the same case for fruit or milk. So we’re making tough choices and cutting things in every part of our budget. We’re looking for opportunities and have faith that our financial situation is temporary, but that doesn’t make it less scary. We’re going to need some help – from family and friends, and yes, if it comes down to it, a food pantry. The bottom line is, our child is excited about summer – and if I can help it, this will not be the year he learns that summer is time to worry.
I’m a college-educated professional. I work full time. I’m your coworker. My kid sits next to your kid at school. I’m your neighbor.”
Right now, in our region of North Carolina, more than 180,000 children have parents who are worrying about summer. Some are experiencing financial set-backs, and some are struggling with systemic issues that keep them in a cycle of poverty. We all want our children to hunger for learning and achievement, not food for their bellies. Yet we know that without proper nutrition, development in vision, fine motor skills and language skills can lag behind, contributing to the “summer slump” – the drop in reading level and math proficiency that many children experience after summer vacation – and creating learning challenges next school year.
When the final bell rings on Friday, thousands of kids will lose access to healthy food through the free or reduced –price meal programs at school, their guarantee of at least one nutritious meal a day. In the Triad, many schools and community programs are poised to provide meals this summer, but lack of transportation and other barriers mean only 10-15% of children that qualify for these programs will be able to access them. Summer meals provided by Second Harvest Food Bank of Northwest NC can make a real difference for kids in need and their families, but they can’t do what they do without our help.
This summer’s “Be The Difference” campaign supports Second Harvest Food Bank-sponsored summer meal sites and helps to provide special Family Meal Boxes to children in need and their families during the weeks school is not is session. Last summer, Second Harvest Food Bank provided nearly 540,000 meals to struggling families and sponsored Summer Food Service Program sites in six counties. Participating children looked forward to healthy meals each weekday and kid-friendly, nutritious meal packs for the weekends, and their families were grateful for weekly meal boxes to supplement family food resources while school was out.
Thanks to the generosity of several anonymous supporters and United Guaranty, through June 30 every $2 you give will be matched with $1 to help keep kids nourished and strong this summer. This summer’s goal of providing 700,000 meals to children in our region this summer is in sight – but thousands of families still need your help. Please don’t let this opportunity to Be the Difference for a hungry child pass by. Visit Second Harvest Food Bank at www.hungernwnc.org and give a gift today.
Sponsored by Second Harvest Food Bank of Northwest NC