Beyond Empty Lunch Boxes: Summer Hunger Impacts Child Development and How You Can Help


Combatting hunger and providing essential services to community members are part of PRISM’s mission to ensure everyone has the tools to build healthy, stable lives. Equitable access to nutritious food means PRISM targets programs for programs to our community’s most vulnerable members, such as children. While free school lunches help combat childhood hunger, the arrival of summer increases food insecurity as children spend the next few months out of school.  

PRISM kicks off the sunny season with a fundraising and donation campaign aimed at childhood food insecurity during the summertime. PRISM’s goal with Suns Out, Fund’s Out is to have 10,000 snack packs assembled, raise vital funds to keep the food shelf stocked and boost resources for our critical Back to School Success children’s program. At the end of the summer, with the help of your generosity, local children will receive brand-new backpacks and school supplies to set up the upcoming school year for success. 

The Importance of School-Year Hunger Programs 

Over 28 million children are served school lunch each day, approximately 20 million of these meals are at a free or reduced cost. Throughout the school year, many children and families rely on vital hunger programs like the National School Lunch Program (NSLP) and the School Breakfast Program (SBP) to receive nutritious, reliable meals. These nationally-based programs ensure that students have the energy and nutrients they need to learn and grow while at school. Similar to the national programs, Minnesota Governor Tim Walz signed the Free School Meals for Kids Bill in March 2023. This program gives Minnesota students free lunch and breakfast, regardless of economic status.  Like other states, such as California and Maine, Minnesota schools are now eligible for meal reimbursements through the state. These states begin to set a standard of care for America’s students that trickles directly into the community. Children are our future, putting energy, time, and resources into the betterment of their lives builds pathways for a brighter future for all. 

The Dog Days Are Not Over: Increased Food Insecurity During Summer 

When school ends and children are home during the summer, the gap left by the meal programs can create significant challenges for families. Statistics show the need for summer hunger programs continues to rise. In July 2022, nearly 3 million children received lunch during the Summer Nutrition Programs. Suddenly in the summer the cost for families increases with the need for additional childcare and food. Children who depend on school meals now risk going hungry. Generally, parents and guardians face an increase in food expenses as their children are more active and home all day. Increased childcare needs during the summer months leave families strained financially and put healthy childhood development at risk. 

Food Insecurity’s Impact on Child and Educational Development 

Nutrition is one of the most important, basic needs for all living creatures. A key building block in development, a healthy diet is fundamental for a child’s growth. Nutrition directly impacts physical growth, cognitive abilities, and academic performance. Everyone’s heard of a sugar rush, but what about the opposite? Children coming to school hungry report having a harder time focusing and retaining information. Chronic food insecurity sets a child up for poor performance and a stunted educational experience. Studies such as those from the Food Research & Action Center demonstrate how vast the need is, as nearly 3 billion total lunches were distributed through the Summer Food Service Program, Seamless Summer Option, and National School Lunch Program in the 2020-2021 school year. These studies highlight the direct correlation between adequate nutrition and improved outcomes for children’s education and well-being. The absence of stable, nutritious meals can lead to long-term effects on a child’s future success.  

Investing in the Future:  

Investing in children’s nutrition has profound long-term benefits. Children facing food insecurity are less likely to become healthy adults, perform worse academically, and have an increased disposition for committing crimes. By ensuring that the children in our communities are taken care of and have access to nutritious foods, we collectively invest in a healthier, stable future for all.  

Sun’s Out, Fund’s Out 

PRISM is not a stranger to the growing need for assistance within the community. Consistently reevaluating current issues within the community, PRISM creates initiatives, events, and campaigns to raise community awareness and funds for essential poverty solutions. Our summer produce distribution program provides fresh fruits and vegetables, offering essential vitamins and minerals for growing children. Items like apples, carrots, and leafy greens are not only delicious but also packed with nutrients that support healthy development. 

Additionally, The Marketplace food shelf and snack packs aim to fill the gap left by school meal programs. Snack packs, filled with items like granola bars, fruit snacks, pretzels, crackers, juice boxes, applesauce cups, and popcorn, are designed to provide easy, nutritious options for children throughout the day. 

There are many ways you can support PRISM’s Sun’s Out, Fund’s Out summer campaign: 

  • Spread the Word: Using your voice matters! Did you know that 86% of Americans use their smart devices to get news? By following and resharing PRISM on social media and subscribing to the newsletter, you can help the community stay up to date and may even connect someone to much-needed resources. Follow PRISM and Shop for Change on social media to keep connected with us. 

Facebook:@PRISMmpls & @shopforchangethriftshop 

Instagram: @prismgvmn& @shopforchangethriftshop 

LinkedIn: PRISM Golden Valley, MN  

Please direct media inquiries to Alisha Weis, Advancement Director

Call Alisha763-432-4229

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