Summer meal programs step in to feed kids in need - KWWL - Eastern Iowa Breaking News, Weather, Closings

Summer meal programs step in to feed kids in need

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WATERLOO (KWWL) -

School is coming to an end at schools across eastern Iowa.  For many families receiving help with school lunches, that could mean a harder time getting food on the table.  Thankfully, there are some programs available to help kids get free healthy food during the summer.

The Waterloo Community School District offers a summer meal program for students eligible for free and reduced lunches to continue getting fed. 

The Northeast Iowa Food Bank also coordinates programs to help feed kids while school is out. And the need now -- is greater than ever.

Box after box of food lines the warehouse at the Northeast Iowa Food Bank in Waterloo, and volunteers keep busy inside the food pantry loading up items.  That supply will help feed a growing number of people in need.

"Our numbers have not gone down, not even by one or two.  We're seeing the same and in some months much higher," said Karen Erickson with the Northeast Iowa Food Bank.

In fact, this school year alone, the food bank supplied meals to almost 3,000 kids per month. And as families look to fill their tables this summer, the food bank will see a spike in visitors to the food pantry

"If it's a family of five and they have three kids in school, they're able to squeak by just a little bit during the school year.  But now, in the summer time, there's a new strain in their budget.  It's probably going to go through the roof on their food budget.  So they're able to come to the Cedar Valley food pantry once a month and we see our numbers go up by about 100," Erickson said.

To help meet the need, the food bank also helps coordinate a kids cafe meal with the Waterloo Salvation Army.  All those efforts are aimed at preventing kids from the harmful effects of going hungry.

"We have found that it affects kids through academics.  It affects how they're tired, more cranky.  They're not thinking clearly if they're not fed properly, which can result in some other bad choices as well.  So I'm just thankful to the community that provides all this great donation that we're able to provide this service," said Erickson.

The Northeast Iowa Food Bank is set to build a new facility.  Once it's open, the food bank hopes to offer even more meal program options for kids, including nutrition and cooking classes.

The Northeast Iowa Food Bank serves 16 counties in eastern Iowa.  For other programs, you can check with your area food pantry.

Horizons Meals on Wheels in Cedar Rapids is also working with the USDA to partner with local school districts to feed kids for free this summer.  Any child aged one to 18 may come and eat. Lunches will be offered weekdays at Jones Park, Daniels Park, Oak Hill Jackson Resource Center and Springville Community Center -- except July 4, 26, and 27-- all summer long.

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