These past few weeks we’ve seen heroism, sacrifice and community spirit. But that alone won’t be enough to feed America’s children.
Five weeks into the coronavirus outbreak, nearly every public school in America has closed its doors. It’s a challenge for parents, teachers and students alike, but for the millions of children who rely on school for food, it’s a crisis.
“Children are really struggling," said Mary Williams of the Girls Club & Learning Center in Greenwood, Mississippi, one of the programs No Kid Hungry is helping during the crisis. "They don’t understand what’s going on. They’re isolated. They are very vulnerable at this time. We want to let them know we are here for them and make sure they’re still getting things they need until school opens back up.”
All across the country, schools and community groups are working round the clock to feed children, many shifting their normal meals service into delivery programs. It’s a huge set of challenges, from staffing to supply chains to logistics. As part of our initial response to the outbreak, No Kid Hungry has been providing funding to programs across the country, hundreds so far, totaling over $7.5 million.
But the need is vast - and growing. Our friends at Feeding America have reported a staggering spike in demand at the nation’s food banks, and the program directors we talk to every day paint a grim picture.
"Every week we're scrambling to get enough food," said Laurie Taylor Mitchell, president of the Student Support Network, a nonprofit that helps students at low-income schools near Baltimore. The organization, staffed entirely by volunteers, is operating two distribution sites in suburban Maryland, providing food and other essentials to local families.
"The cars are lined up 15 minutes before we even open,” she said. “There's never enough."
As Parents Lose Jobs, What Will Happen to Kids?
Just as the outbreak has closed schools, it has also closed businesses everywhere, putting millions of Americans out of work.
The U.S. Department of Labor reports that the number of unemployment claims has reached a staggering 22 million in the past four weeks. And the majority of these, over 14 million, are “low-income” jobs (those paying less than $40,000 annually), according to the Urban Institute.
Which means that children whose families were already close to the edge, financially, are the ones most likely to be affected as poverty spikes across the country. Experts fear that rising unemployment could lead to the worst increase in poverty in fifty years, an increase certain to have a disproportionate impact on children.
"It's going to be much, much worse this summer than it's ever been,” said Mitchell, referring to the typical increase in hunger we see during the summer months, when school meals disappear. “We're going to have a huge problem with food. We've never seen this before."
"I don't think people understand the magnitude of how much hunger there is,” she went on. “It's one thing if you have 10 percent of the population suffering silently from hunger. What if it's 20 percent? 30 percent? A lot more people are going to be suffering now than ever before."
How You Can Help
We know there are serious problems facing us - now and for months, even years, to come. But we also know these are problems we can solve together. Here’s three things everyone can do, today, to help kids facing hunger:
- Demand that Congress take action. Right now, our representatives in Congress are considering the next coronavirus relief package. Use this simple automatic form to let them know that taking care of children should be our first priority.
- Share our meals-finder site. No Kid Hungry has launched a website to help parents find free meals sites in their communities. You can find the site here. Please share it and help us improve it by adding any meals programs that aren’t captured here.
- Donate. No Kid Hungry is providing emergency grants to support local programs feeding children, from schools to food banks to volunteer community groups. Your donation helps children get the meals they need. Give today.