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This Summer, North Texas Children Face a Variety of Challenges, Including Food Insecurity

Together, we can ensure all local children have the access and opportunity to thrive.

June 5, 2023

Home to leading businesses, a steady stream of new residents and seemingly endless prosperity, North Texas was just named the fastest growing region in the U.S. But it’s also home to staggering inequality.

Nearly 700,000 North Texans are food insecure—meaning they lack consistent access to enough food for an active, healthy life, according to North Texas Food Bank. This translates to one in eight people, including one in five children, going hungry at least part of the time.

Food insecurity and childhood hunger in particular are significant issues that prevent individuals and families from truly thriving. After all, a child who is distracted by hunger is less likely to succeed in school, workers without reliable access to food can’t be at their best and anyone who frequently experiences food insecurity is more likely to see their physical and even mental health suffer.

At United Way of Metropolitan Dallas, our focus areas—education, income and health—are inextricably linked to food security. That’s why we address the root causes of hunger and advocate for improved food accessibility as we drive progress toward our Aspire United 2030 goals.

The summer months are a particularly important time for preventing childhood hunger, because it’s when many North Texas children miss out on federally funded school nutrition programs. But together, we can take key steps to improve access to quality nutrition. Read on to learn more about food security challenges during the summer, how United Way prevents childhood hunger and how you can be part of this life-changing work.

Summer Is ‘The Hungriest Season’

In some local school districts, 90% of children rely on federal nutrition programs during the school year. When the school year ends, tens of thousands of North Texas students lose access to regular nutritious meals.

For many families, the added expense of one to two meals every day for each child is difficult to absorb. And in recent years, the situation has only been made worse by the cost of food itself. The price of food increased about 11% from 2021 to 2022, due to inflation and supply chain disruptions, according to the U.S. Government Accountability Office. And while food prices have started to stabilize over the last few months, local families are still struggling to afford necessities.

Fighting Childhood Hunger

With our focus on improving access to education, income and health, United Way of Metropolitan Dallas makes it a priority to address hunger in our community. We lead and invest in innovative programs that support communities and families and address systemic challenges like food insecurity. A large part of that work involves partnering with dozens of local school districts, nonprofits and other organizations to provide nutritious food to hard-working families throughout the summer.

The North Texas Summer & Supper Council (NTXSSC) is our longest-running and most impactful hunger advocacy program. In 2013, United Way teamed up with Baylor University Collaborative on Hunger and Poverty to launch NTXSSC, which supports summer meals programs as they provide millions of meals and supplemental programming to local children when school is out. These programs are run by local school districts, such as Dallas and Garland ISDs, and nonprofits like CitySquare and Equal Heart.

Over the last three years, the pandemic and rising food costs have pushed the demand for summer meals to unprecedented levels. Prior to COVID-19, in a typical summer, NTXSSC would work with more than two dozen groups that serve more than 2 million meals to 55,000+ children. Since 2020, demand has continued to rise, and NTXSSC and our partners have stepped up even more. In 2022, our meal provider partners served a record 56 million meals to North Texas children within Dallas and Collin counties alone.

Across 86 program sites, these organizations also provided fun and engaging programming that keeps kids excited about summer meals programs and takes a little pressure off of caregivers each day. With activities such as crafts, games, bounce houses and water balloon fights, children get to have a little summer fun without the stress and uncertainty that comes with food insecurity.

Nutrition Programs Are Just One Piece of the Puzzle

While improving access to nutritious food is paramount, supporting North Texas children this summer goes well beyond summer meals programs.

When we come together, we can ensure that all children get the support they need in every area of life. This includes keeping them well-fed, providing families with fun educational resources to keep kids’ minds engaged and setting them up for success after they finish school.

At United Way of Metropolitan Dallas, we create and invest in a variety of programs that support children’s educational attainment, overall health and even their future work prospects. In addition to our work supporting summer meals programs, here are just a few of our programs and partnerships that ensure kids can thrive:

  • Dollars for College, a partnership with Communities Foundation of Texas that seeds college savings accounts for low-income students, putting them on a path to attend and graduate college. Children with at least some college savings are three times more likely to attend college and four times more likely to graduate. In our last fiscal year, parents opened 229 new savings accounts through Dollars for College and, with community support, made $191,500 in deposits—more than double the previous year.
  • Once Upon a Month™, which delivers free age-appropriate children’s books to families every month, encouraging early literacy by stimulating curiosity, language development and learning skills. In our last fiscal year, 9,397 children received books from Once Upon a Month and 94% of parents read more to their children thanks to the program. And thanks to support from The Boone Family Foundation, we’re moving closer to our goal of distributing 1 million books by 2027.

Together, We Can Support Children Throughout the Summer

When school lets out for the summer, many families struggle to keep their children well fed and engaged.

With local families struggling to make ends meet, it’s more important than ever that we come together as a community to support kids. This year, we invite every North Texan to invest in the education, financial security and health of local children by donating to United Way of Metropolitan Dallas.

A gift of any amount makes a meaningful impact in our community:

  • $25 can support the North Texas Summer & Supper Council, enabling summer meal sponsors to increase their impact and feed more students.
  • $36 could provide a child with 12 books a year through Once Upon a Month, preparing them for school and early reading. Students who read on grade level by third grade are five times more likely to graduate ready for success in college or career
  • $45 can ensure every student goes back to school with the supplies they need to succeed, including school uniforms.
  • $50 could seed a child’s college savings account through Dollars for College, which can grow to nearly $500 by high school graduation.

Together, we can ensure every child has the access and opportunity to thrive this summer and throughout the year.


Invest in Local Children

An investment in United Way ensures local children have access to nutritious meals, early education materials, health resources and more so they can thrive all summer long. 

Find Free Summer Meals

To enroll your child in a free summer meal program, call 211 or text the word “FOOD” or “COMIDA” to 304-304.