Seeing children and families go hungry during the summer is something organizers of area entities don’t want to stomach.
As Killeen and Copperas Cove independent school districts offer summer feeding programs geared toward children, area food bank operators say summer months are peak times for families in need.
Ann Farris, co-director of the Killeen Food Care Center, said the center receives about 80,000 client visits every year with visits peaking in June, July and August.
“We definitely see an increase in the number of families or dependents coming in for food during the summer,” Farris said.
Although half of the center’s food comes from Austin-based Capital Area Food Bank purchased with a maintenance fee, other portions come from arrangements with local grocery stores, the city’s community garden and other organizations, she said. An elementary school student council also decorated brown bags for children receiving food through the food center. But the flow of donations slows down in the summer.
“Some schools will even have food drives during the year, but the thing that hits us is when school’s out, the drives stop,” Farris said.
The Harker Heights Food Care Center, which receives some of its provisions from Capital Area Food Bank, also sees more families during the summer, said Linda Dawson, the center’s president.
Dawson, a former child nutrition manager for Killeen ISD, said the center helps an average of 60 to 70 families a week throughout the year. During the summer, the weekly influx can reach 90 to 100 families.
“We usually see an increase in donations during the holidays, but sometimes the need is forgotten about by the time summer comes around,” Dawson said.
Area school districts still provide meals for children in the summer even though school is out.
Steve Murphy, Killeen ISD child nutrition director, said the Summer Feeding Service Program is required of districts that have more than 60 percent of students enrolled in the national free and reduced school lunch program.
This summer, Killeen ISD serves lunch to about 4,600 children daily plus 1,200 brown-bag lunches, Murphy said.
The numbers are greater when factoring in breakfasts served to children from outlining partner sites such as area apartments, the housing authority and Boys & Girls Clubs.
The program is open to all children ages 1 to 18. Children do not have to be enrolled in summer school to participate.
“It’s great to be able to take care of children who might otherwise not receive a meal,” Murphy said.
Melissa Murray-Paz, Cove ISD child nutrition director, said the district serves more children during the summer because the program is open to anyone in the area, including children from outside Cove who may be visiting grandparents or other family members living in the district.
“We tried to choose sites where kids might be walking in the area, and there is a need,” Murray-Paz said.
As a single mother with her daughter home during the summer, Murray-Paz said bills for electric and food increase.
“So for say a family of four, a couple of free meals will truly save on groceries,” she said.