Most of Utah’s school children are about to be on a two-week holiday break. No homework, no tests and no math. But for 142,000 Utah children (which equates to 1 in 7), it often also means no lunch. When school is out, kids facing hunger don’t have the security of school meal programs, and already-struggling families have to work even harder to ensure they have enough food to get them through winter break.
But it’s not just school meals. There’s the after-school Kids Cafe meals that often serve as dinner for participating children. We also distribute food at Mobile School Pantries at 67 schools in the state, offering free food for children and their families directly from the playground of their local elementary school. Many local schools even have pantries within the school office. With school out, this entire safety net of food assistance disappears, and parents have to find a way to fill what’s called the nutrition gap…but nutrition is only part of it.
There’s more than just missed meals. If you’re barely getting food on the table for your children, imagine how hard it is to provide holiday gifts. Parents may have to stay home from work to take care of their kids, meaning paychecks get even smaller, and budgets get even tighter. You may not think about the cost of heating your home for a few extra hours, but when every cent counts, parents may be forced to choose between putting a coat on in the house and putting a PB&J on the table.
Unfortunately, the only ways we can reach these families during winter break are through our 149 partner agencies throughout the state and our Mobile Pantry distributions. If you or anyone you know needs help during winter break, here are some resources:
- United Way 2-1-1: text 898-211 with your zip code or dial 2-1-1 (toll-free) for services in your area.
- Find a Pantry: get food and other supplies from a pantry in your area.