With the school year just about over our thoughts naturally turn to the upcoming summer months. We like to think of the summer as an idyllic time of year full of rest, relaxation and vacations, and as a time of relaxed schedules when instead of getting the kids out of bed for school we get them out of the house for fun things to do.
What summer means for many parents and families in our community is another thing altogether, and not that kind of idyllic time away from school. It is certainly not the care-free and lazy summer days of decades past. Not for many.
As the school year closes and we think about final report cards, make-up days, saying goodbye to teachers and the growing anticipation of the weeks to come, we need to take stock of several things to count as blessings. We should count as blessings the kind and considerate teachers, principals, guidance counselors and other administrative and support school staff who have guided our children through the preceding months of learning and helped the families of children beyond the call of duty.
When Harvest Hope repeats that one out of every four children under the age of five in South Carolina goes to bed hungry every night, it is not just an alarming statistic for teachers but a real nightmare they witness every school day. Educators know not just metaphorically but in real quantifiable terms that when a child is hungry they cannot learn. Hunger affects their ability to focus or pay attention and dampens or destroys their child-like curiosity and enthusiasm for learning. Hunger affects their ability to work and their desire to attend class. Hunger has a real and measurable effect on learning and on a child’s health. Teachers in our state see this every day.
At Harvest Hope, because we are so involved with children’s feeding programs administered through and in coordination with schools, we hear of teachers who see the effects of hunger in their classrooms and reach into their pockets to make sure they have bags of apples or oranges or have other types of nutritious snacks to provide for children. Most teachers can easily spot the children in their classes who are hungry. They know the real harm of hunger and see the effects on those sitting at desks in front of them. That is why there are teachers who use their own money to try and bolster the nutrition of at-risk children in their classes.
Just as there are many cafeteria workers who do what they can to give extra food items out of their own pocket to children so they will not have to go home and face the despair of nothing to eat until they return the next day. There are guidance counselors who keep on hand snacks or nutritious items to provide to some children who come to them with issues and behavior problems, because they know those problems can be hunger related.
The summer months for Harvest Hope are the hardest months. During the ten or so weeks that children are out of school, their parents must find a way to replace the meals provided through in-school free and reduced breakfast and lunch programs. For many families suffering economic hardship, they have no choice but to turn to Harvest Hope or one of our partnering agencies to replace the meals they will not see again until late August or September.
We would like to offer two suggestions how everyone can support our mission to feed the hungry children during the summer. A $30 donation to support our Back Pack program provides nutrition for children to last through the weekends. That $30 is equal to seven meals per weekend each month.
The other suggestion is to honor those teachers who have been so kind and instructive to your children by donating an Honorarium gift in their name to Harvest Hope. We have designed a special new Honorarium specifically to honor teachers. When you donate one of these Honorariums a card will be sent to the teacher letting them know that their kindness and enlightenment will result in the gift of food for a child in need. Honorariums through Harvest Hope are easy: if you send us a donation just enclose a note with the specifics of who you wish to honor and where you want the card sent, or provide the same information if you donate on-line through www.harvesthope.org.
Thank you so much for the many ways you help us to feed hungry children and show kindness to someone who helps children.
God Bless You,