Summer Journal – Hunger never takes a holiday

Summer Journal – Hunger never takes a holiday

With another tough Wisconsin winter finally in the rear-view mirror, many of us are eager to spend long weekends at the Hy & Richard Smith JCC Water Park, enjoy the sunshine, and possibly catch a summer festival (or two). Unfortunately, summer break comes at a cost for Milwaukeeans living at or below the federal poverty threshold as they struggle to get basic needs met. In addition to the challenge of trying to find childcare that is affordable on a minimum wage salary, the burden of ten weeks without school is exacerbated when families are already struggling with food insecurity.

“Many Milwaukee families see grocery bills increase up to $300 each month while school is not in session, and food pantries like the Jewish Community Pantry are left attempting to fill in the gaps for parents and children,” explains Heidi Gould, JCC Pantry Advocacy Coordinator. “Last year, August was the busiest month for the Jewish Community Pantry. We served over 870 families in August, compared to 750 families most other months.”

During the school year, many children living with food insecurity rely on the free and reduced cost National School Lunch Program or the free and reduced cost breakfast program. One hundred percent of Milwaukee Public School (MPS) students are eligible for both the free and reduced cost breakfast program and the free and reduced cost National School Lunch Program. As a result, most MPS students are receiving two balanced meals per day during the school year but are left looking for nourishing meals during the summer months.

“No Kid Hungry”, a non-profit organization with the goal of ending childhood hunger, estimates that only 15% of students receiving free and reduced lunches during the school year are getting fed by the federal Summer Food Service Program (SFSP) which provides free lunch, breakfast, or both to children during the summer months. Unfortunately, a host of logistical barriers prevent hungry students from accessing the food they need from this program — transportation is not provided, school districts cannot afford to run buses during the summer months, and parents often don’t want children crossing dangerous intersections or walking past gang territories to reach a meal site.

The reality of kids going hungry during the summer is overwhelming and often difficult to comprehend. But feeding the hungry, maakhal revi’im, is an integral part of the Jewish value of Tikkun Olam, repairing the world. The Jewish Community Pantry is our community’s response to hunger in the City of Milwaukee, and for over 40 years, we have been serving our clients with respect and compassion.

“Volunteering at the Jewish Community Pantry on Thursdays feels very right to me – especially in the summer months when I know the families need us even more,” says Sheryl Rubin, pantry volunteer. “The clients are so appreciative, and it is special to me to be able to connect with them and make a difference in my community.”

Find stories like this and more in our 2019 Summer Journal.

LEARN MORE about the Jewish Community Pantry