Healthy Summer

School is out for the summer! No homework! No Algebra! No food?

Unfortunately that is a reality for too many school-aged children in the United States.

imageWhile summer should be the most fun time of the year for kids, “their parents and guardians may be anxious to provide all three meals during the summer,”  Merrimack Valley Food Bank Executive Director Amy Pessia said at Thursday’s Healthy summer press conference at City Hall.

Nationally, 21 million children receive free or reduced price breakfast and/or lunch during the school year; only 3 million, or 1 in 7 of those children, are fed in summer programs.

In Massachusetts, that figure is a little better, rising to 1 in 5 children.

image“But, we have to do better,” James Arena-DeRosa , USDA Northeast Region Regional Administrator said.

He added kids who are not well fed during the summer return to school in September unprepared and lagging behind their peers.

“Kids who have chronic nutrition problems are not ready to learn,” Arena-DeRosa said.

Mayor Patrick Murphy echoed the statements made by Pessia and Arena-DeRosa. imageGrowing up the son of two Lowell Public School teachers, he was well-aware of the problem of hunger in the city.

His mother, Joan, taught ay the Rogers School, where 97 percent of the student population received free or reduced price meals.

“Many times these were the only meals these kids would have during the day,” Murphy said, adding he fully supports the strong partnerships that have formed in the city between government agencies and non-profit organizations to provide programs to feed kids during the summer months, “so our children can continue to learn and play throughout the summer.”

imageArena-DeRosa urged any parent or child in need of food services to call the Project Bread food source hotline at 1-800-645-8333 to locate local summer feeding sites. There are 800 sites in Massachusetts that serve 3 million children each summer.

imageAdditionally, Pessia added the Merrimack Valley Food Bank is urging people to donate non-perishable food items to the food bank or their local food pantries. The summer is the most difficult time of the year for these organizations because people generally only think about donating food at the holidays, but it is needed year-round.

“We don’t want anyone to be turned away when they are seeking emergency food assistance,” Pessia said. “If we can provide them with a little food they can avoid having their electricity shut off or their house being foreclosed on.”

The Merrimack Valley Food Bank is located at 735 Broadway Street. Their website is: http://mvfb.org/

The city’s Recreation Department and their partners are offering a variety of activities to keep kids active and having fun (and fed) this summer. Check out their Healthy Summer brochure here: http://www.lowellma.gov/depts/parks-recreation/recreation-division/HSB

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