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Health

When Summertime Comes, Many Kids are Left Hungry

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File photo
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US Department of Agriculture

Nearly one in two kids in Springfield’s public schools is on free or reduced lunch. Where do these students find food in the summer, when school is out?

The number of students on free and reduced lunch in Springfield’s public schools rose seven percent since 2009, to 53 percent of the district. When school gets out for the summer, it can be hard for kids in need to find food.

Tom Faulkner is the director of the Springfield-based Crosslines food pantry. He’s responsible for distributing meals to food insecure families. He says food donations to relief organizations are down in the summer, making it harder to feed kids.

“It’s much more difficult, because if the kids aren’t going to summer school there are no lunches that those children are getting,” Faulkner told KSMU.

Christian Mechlin, Executive Director of Care to Learn, says his organization partnered with Crosslines to start a mobile food pantry to make sure there’s enough food on the table.

“Then families can come, and they take home a week or so worth of groceries from that truck. And that includes vegetables, milk, produce, bread, meats, cheeses, things like that, that are healthy and nutritious that you want kids to have,” Mechlin said.

Communities throughout the Ozarks have also put on food programs this summer. For example, the Boys and Girls Club of West Plains hosts Meals In the Park, Monday through Friday noon to 1 through August 4th.

Missouri’s Department of Health and Senior Services gives funding to Springfield Public Schools to serve food during summer school. Kim Keller, the director of Nutrition Services for Springfield Public Schools,

says SPS served over 300,000 meals last summer, and the food isn’t just for kids enrolled in summer school.

“They can stop by during the time that we’re serving the meals, if they aren’t enrolled in school, they would have to go through the front office and sign in.” said Keller.

Along with the mobile food pantry, Crosslines has a community center families can go to at 615 North Glenstone Ave. Tom Faulkner says Crosslines is helping fill the need of families in between school years.

“We had about 1174 children served at Crosslines food pantry in the month of June,” Faulkner said.

For more information on how to help please visit crosslines.org or caretolearn.org. To find places nearby that offer summer meals, text “Summer Meals” to 97779.

Here is an interactive map from the DHSS with locations in Southwest Missouri that offer a summer food program.

https://ogi.oa.mo.gov/DHSS/summerFood/index.htm