For North Texas children, summer should be fun and carefree. But this is when kids are most likely to experience food insecurity in our community, since they no longer have access to regular school meals.
Take Dallas County as an example. In Dallas schools, 89% of students qualify for free or reduced-priced meals during the school year. Once summer rolls around, this means nearly nine out of 10 students lose out on at least one regular, nutritious meal each day.
At United Way of Metropolitan Dallas, we understand that nutrition is a key part of health—which is a building block of opportunity, along with education and income. Regular, healthy meals are a must for children to be able to learn and grow.
As Julie Fletcher, Director of Support Services for Dallas ISD’s Food and Child Nutrition Services, explains, “A variety of studies have shown that there is a definite link between increased nutrition and increased school achievement by students. There’s a better attendance, there’s better cognitive ability, there’s better retention—and all those factors work into helping a student be the best that they can be.”
That’s why we partner with dozens of local school districts, nonprofits and other organizations to support the prevention of hunger and provide a necessary resource for hard-working families during the summertime months.
Click the video below to learn more about this important work. Then, read on to discover how we’ve supported our partners in meeting increased demand during COVID-19, what summer meals programming will look like this year and how you can get involved.
Working Together to Support North Texas Families
In North Texas, child hunger is a persistent problem that takes a community-wide solution. With that in mind, United Way of Metropolitan Dallas partnered with Baylor University’s Texas Hunger Initiative in 2013 to launch the North Texas Summer & Supper Council (NTXSSC). NTXSSC supports a variety of summer meals and supper programs that provide millions of meals to children throughout Dallas. These include local school districts, such as Dallas and Garland ISDs, and nonprofits like CitySquareand Equal Heart.
This support is so important for families who rely on federal nutrition programs during the school year. “One of the benefits of summer meals for families is that it helps their home budget,” Fletcher says. “When a child is participating in free breakfast and lunch, that can save a family $30 or more per week from their food budget, which can be substantial for some families.”
Through NTXSSC, United Way of Metropolitan Dallas and our partners help meal providers get the word out about free summer meals programs and even increase their distribution sites. This is especially important in Texas, which has one of the lowest summer meals participation rates in the country, ranking 48th in reaching children in need. Right now, just 14% of the nearly 3 million Texas children who receive free and reduced school meals access a summer meals program. This means many kids are probably missing meals or aren’t getting the nutrition they need.