Real Story: Irma’s family struggles during summer months
July 16, 2009 § Leave a comment
Corrections: Client’s last name and photo removed.
Irma story is one of many reflecting the growing trend of hunger in Central Texas. She has four children and her husband works in construction. With the poor economy, there are few construction jobs available.
During the school year, Irma’s children receive warm meals because Austin ISD schools provide free breakfasts and lunches to children living in qualifying households. With school out of session, and shrinking family budget, Irma was faced with tough choices. For the first time, she needed to turn to food assistance from a food pantry.
“Before the situation got bad, our family was fine with just my husband working,” said Irma. “I considered finding a job, but my paycheck would be the same as it costs for child care. I think our situation will change when the children go back to school in the fall. Summer is the most difficult time of year for me.”
According to Yvonne Seiders, Assistant Director of Nutrition and Food Services with Austin ISD, 63 percent of all students in the district qualify for free and reduced meal benefits. During the summer, all children ages one through 18, regardless of household income can participate in the federally-funded Summer Feeding program. An area qualifies for a Summer Feeding site if at least 50 percent of enrolled students qualify to receive free/reduced price meal benefits.
“It breaks my heart to hear that parents are worried about providing food for their children this summer,” said Yvonne. “I wish more people knew about our program. The more kids we feed, the better our community will be.”
Transportation is a huge barrier for many families.
Since the feeding program is not offered at every school, families without transportation may choose to pick up bags of food from a local pantry, rather than sending their children twice a day to the specific meal sites. Across Texas, participation in Summer Feeding programs are low because of inconsistent outreach and a lack of organizations willing to sponsor sites.
Summer Feeding programs are up for reauthorization this fall, as part of the Child Nutrition Reauthorization Act. Ask Congress to support Summer Feeding programs by:
- Increasing reimbursement levels and and assisting in rural transportation costs
- Reducing sponsor paperwork where possible
- Decreasing area eligibility from 50% of the poverty line to 40% (H.R. 540)
Austin ISD Summer Feeding program sites