When the final bell rings at the end of the school year, it's not always good news for every student, especially for those who look forward to school every day just to get a decent meal.
That is the case for 55,000 children in Shelby County who are facing food insecurity, based on results from a 2015 Feeding America survey. That means on an average day, one third of children in the county are without a reliable source of quality or nutritious food.
Andrew Bell, communications manager for the Mid-South Food Bank, a non-profit that works to eliminate hunger in Shelby County and 30 other counties, said with no school-provided meals, food insecurity grows in the summer and hits those living in poverty the hardest.
"People are having to decide between paying for air conditioning or feeding their families," Bell said. "And they're choosing air."
To help children without access to food during the summer, the food bank provides summer feeding programs for kids living in low-income households.
For example, at Carpenter Street Art Garden, children can come receive a week's worth of food to sustain them in the summer. Additionally, at the Buckman and Porter Boys and Girls Clubs, hot, nutritious meals are provided in a safe environment to children in need Monday through Thursday.
- Maya Smith
- Shelves at the Mid-South Food Bank
However, as summer rolls around and the need for food increases, there is less food on the shelves of the food bank, as donations typically decrease after the winter holidays through the summer months, said Bell.
"People are thinking about going on vacation, not donating," he said. "This puts a real strain on the food bank, as well as the food pantries and other agencies we donate to."
Bell said it is important that individuals and organizations remember that the food bank needs year-round donations, whether they be food or dollars, in order to continue providing food for their 240 partner agencies, including food pantries, soup kitchens, and shelters.
This week, the food bank kicked off their largest food-and-funds drive of the year, Operation Feed, which is a community-wide, friendly competition between businesses and other groups. The drive will run through July 28th, ending with an awards ceremony celebrating the group collecting the most food or cash.
Other groups, like the Cleaning Authority of Memphis, which provides services to 600 residences in the city, is doing its own thing to help the food bank and asking their customers to make donations.
Through a two-year-old initiative called Cleaning Authority of Memphis CARES, company employees work to educate their customers on the need for food in the city and then provide a bag that the customer can fill with donated food goods before their next cleaning service.
Last summer, the group was able to donate 2,000 pounds of food to the food bank. This year the company has a goal of 3,000.
"We know the food bank runs low this time of the year," said Rick Roland, Cleaning Authority of Memphis' owner. "We're always looking for ways to give back to community, and right now it needs food."