Surviving the hungry months of summer across the United States

It’s easy to think of hunger as a problem faced only by children and families in developing countries overseas — not here in the United States. But a recent scene outside a church in Auburn, Washington, tells a much different story.

Story and photos by Andrea Peer, World Vision U.S.
Published June 19, 2012 at 12:00am PDT

On a Saturday morning, nearly 1,000 moms, dads, grandparents, and children line up outside of Grace Community Church. Some arrive nearly two hours before the doors open.

Inside, they know, is a room full of necessary treasures — clothing for babies and kids, strollers, cribs, toys, diapers, food, and more.

When they finally get there, one mother, Joy, is overwhelmed with gratitude. “Yes! The wait was worth it,” she proclaims.

World Vision donated several pallets of diapers and boxes of food kits — easy-to-prepare meals, such as rice, beans, and macaroni and cheese, that can feed a family of five for a day.

Hard times for families

Families came from throughout the region — some unemployed, others living in subsidized housing, and still others just struggling to get by and in need of some extra resources.

Meghan, age 21, brought her 8-month-old daughter, Autumn Rose, and her younger brother to the event. “I’m a single mom and not working, so I can utilize any help I can get,” she says.

“It’s very hard, especially being unemployed.”

Food kits help meet basic need

At a table stacked with food kits, 13-year-old Katie Laverty greets families and hands them bags of food.

“People told me, ‘Thank you so much! This is so wonderful, you guys,’” she says.

Each kit contains four meal packets, or enough food to feed a family of five for one day by providing sustenance like oatmeal, lentil soup, and pasta.

“The food kit looked really good and easy to prepare,” says Katie. “Even if they were out of the streets, they could probably find some hot water. I thought it was cool to see how much they could fit in just a small bag.”

An eye-opening experience

Katie Laverty, 13, volunteers at the food distribution, which she describes as an eye-opening experience.Katie came to volunteer with her dad and her younger sister. She is especially impacted by seeing all the young moms.

“It was crazy to see how many young moms there were and how they did it all,” she says, noting that she hasn’t seen something like this before.

“It was scary to see how many people needed all that stuff. There were a lot of people,” Katie adds. “What a privilege it is to have so much at our fingertips. I can open up my pantry and find something in there.

“We should be grateful for everything we have, because we have a lot more than a lot of people — and not just out in Third World countries.”

The hungry months of summer

Romanita Hairston, World Vision’s vice president for U.S. programs, notes the growing problem of hunger right here in the United States.

“World Vision is extremely concerned about the growing number of children who aren’t getting enough food to eat on a daily basis,” says Hairston. “When children don’t eat, hunger creates a negative domino effect, impacting not only a child’s health but their ability to concentrate in school and their overall well-being.”

This problem doesn’t go away when classes end for the summer, either. In fact, it can get worse, as the U.S. Department of Agriculture notes, because children who depend on free or reduced-cost meals at school lose this safety net during the months of June through August.

So World Vision is working to help fill the gap by supplying food kits for community-based distributions across the United States. For families who live paycheck to paycheck — such assistance can make a critical difference.

“We would go hungry”

The food kits provided by World Vision contain basic meal items, along with directions on how to prepare each.Martha, a mother of three including a 3-week-old baby, got a couple of food kits for her family. She confirms that times are tough. “It’s really bad right now,” she says. “My husband has not been working for about a month.”

She also gets food from a food bank and milk from a state assistance program. Without these interventions, she says that her family would go hungry.

But Martha changes tone as she looks at her bags full of food, clothes, and diapers. “We really appreciate it! Thank you to everyone who gives all the food and the diapers and everything in here. It’s really nice,” she says.

She pauses, tearing up a little. “It’s unexplainable. We thank you, for everything.”

Learn more

Read another story about a struggling family in West Virginia who received food support and other assistance through World Vision.

Three ways you can help

As the global economy continues to falter, pray that struggling families right here in the United States wouldn’

Make a one-time donation to help feed a U.S. family in need for three days. Your gift will help deliver nutritious meals like oatmeal, lentil soup or pasta, and a bean and rice casserole to American families who struggle with hunger.

Give monthly to support children in need in the United States. Your monthly contribution will help provide U.S. children living in poverty with essentials like food, warm clothing, school supplies, academic mentoring, training, and more.