Thousands of local residents make tough choices everyday between eating and paying for life's basic needs but what if they didn't have to make that choice?
What if food was available and just not being eaten?
Believe it or not that is an issue in the Valley. One with a simple solution.
Summer is a time when kids are deciding whether to spend their day at the pool, the park or maybe the mall.
For thousands of other teens, they spend their mornings wondering if they are going to eat that day and if so how?
“It's pretty heartbreaking,” said Communications Director at the Blue Ridge Area Food Bank Ruth Jones.
She said the situation is heartbreaking because those kids don't have to go hungry. It turns out there is help to feed kids in the summer.
“Typically we partner with community centers and faith based organizations, recreation programs that have summer programs for children they usually combine an activity with a meal of some sort.”
Her challenge is getting the kids to the food.
About half of the students are on free or reduced lunch in the Valley's school districts with the largest concentration in Harrisonburg.
However, there is a large discrepancy between the number of kids getting free or reduced lunch, and the number of kids taking advantage of these summer feeding program.
So what's the problem?
“A lot of people aren't quite aware that there are some of these programs right in their community.”
So it turns out what may be a big problem has a relatively simple solution, getting kids from their home to the food.
The Harrisonburg Salvation Army is one of those distribution sites. Over the summer 30 kids will walk through their doors and sit down for a meal.
A meal that without this program, they may end up missing.
Cathie Burleigh helps manage the program at the Salvation Army.
“My husband's told me stories about kids that come up and say they just don't have any food at home,” said Burleigh.
But the agency's distribution doesn't stop inside the building.
Their canteen is set up at Spotswood Elementary, and it feeds about two dozen more other students.
Both Burleigh and Jones said they can feed even more.
“We have the capability to do a lot more here if word gets out that we have a free lunch here,” said Burleigh.
“We get all of our food from the U.S. Department of Agriculture,” said Jones. “It's a reimbursement program so we're reimbursed after the program is over.”
In other words, even though the food banks' donations are down, this program will not suffer as a result.
As the rest of this school year winds down, and students get their minds off classes, one thing they do not have to worry about is getting something to eat.
It's important to note, that the difference between the number of students getting free or reduced lunch and using this program does not mean that all those kids are going hungry.
Jones said many of the families do get food from the food bank pantries. Some of these families also receive public assistance.
If you do need help getting meals to your kids over the summer, click on the following link for a list of feeding sites: Free Summer Lunch Sites for Eligible Students
© Copyright 2013 WHSV / Gray Television Group, Inc. All Rights Reserved.