Summer lunch programs also see hungry parents

Michael Melia
Associated Press

New Haven, Conn. — Schools that provide meals for students during summer months are finding that the adults often need help, as well, to keep from going hungry.

In Connecticut, the New Haven school district and a food bank are offering meals and groceries to parents in response to signs of household need including stories of adults eating off children’s plates.

“The district kept coming up against this issue,” city schools spokeswoman Mercy Quaye said. “It doesn’t take a huge study to assess the need when you can see it.”

Coordinators of summer lunch programs around the United States have been reporting similar needs, according to Candice Stoiber, director of special nutrition programs for the regional office of the U.S. Agriculture Department’s Food and Nutrition Service. She said her agency has been discussing the problem with them and urging them to seek out nonprofits or other groups that can help address the need.

“We are seeing that the summer sites and the people who are administering the program are struggling with these adults that appear at a site and they are hungry,” Stoiber said. “And they don’t have access to food. Our program is for the children, not for adults. They are looking for alternatives.”

In New Haven, 88 percent of students qualify for free or reduced-price lunch. Through the partnership, announced Thursday, the Connecticut Food Pantry sends a truck to sites where the schools provide prepared meals for children. Food bank volunteers then distribute food to the children’s families. Folding tables also are set up with nutritious food that families can take home.

Nationwide, Stoiber said, the need among adults probably became more apparent as awareness of summer meals through the schools grew with promotion of the programs.