Summer, when you’re a child, should be associated with hanging out with friends and sleeping in. But for some children, summer is about wondering where the next meal will come from.
During the school year, students on free and reduced lunch programs have at least two meals provided during the week. In the summer, that safety net is gone.
All Faiths Food Bank is gearing up for its Campaign Against Summer Hunger, which works to combat that gap.
Sandra Frank, CEO of All Faiths Food Bank, said the campaign is imperative to the health of children.
“At least 50% rely on school meal program. When school ends, hunger begins. They no longer have access to meals. When we realized the hunger gap, we developed the Campaign Against Summer Hunger,” Frank said. “During the summer months, when children don’t have enough food, they experience a nutrient and learning loss.”
The campaign, which is now entering its sixth year, is rolling out a new kickoff event.
The Walk to End Summer Hunger will be held at 8 a.m. March 31 at JD Hamel Park. The participants will walk across the Ringling Bridge and will launch a six-week dollar-for-dollar match challenge of raising $1.4 million from April 1 through May 15 to fund food programs aimed to feed 40,000 children and their younger siblings during the summer.
The event co-chairs, Terri Vitale and Tom Bernstein, believe the walk will provide awareness for hungry children.
“Our goal is always to reach more kids during the summer. We want to reach 40,000 kids this year,” said Burnstein.
Vitale said, as a mother, this is a problem she hopes she never has to face.
“I feel very fortunate we are able to provide food (for our children),” Vitale said. “Every family should have the opportunity to not have to question where the next meal comes from.”
The walk “is creating a family event. It will celebrate all the great things the community has to offer,” said Vitale. “If the walk can help spread the news, spread the excitement, then that’s exactly what we’re hoping for.”
The main message behind the campaign is to help children who live in Sarasota, which can sometimes be hard to imagine. The community we live in is so beautiful, said Frank, it’s hard to imagine something like hunger happening here.
“We will use every penny. That’s our biggest goal yet,” said Frank. “It is an amazing and beautiful thing that the community helps provide and raise that amount of money. This is an astoundingly responsive community.”