Across the United States, 15 million children are hungry, according to the USDA. Nearly 100,000 of them are right here in Northeast Ohio.
The problem is especially bad in Cuyahoga County, which is home to the largest number of food insecure children in the entire state. But thanks to some federal funding, Rainbow Babies and Children's Hospital is helping keep bellies full this summer.
Demiah and Que'niia have big plans this summer.
“Going to the water park and swimming and going out of town and stuff on my birthday,” 7-year-old Que’niia shared.
But they know to make that all happen, they need to fuel their bodies.
“We want to be strong and healthy and eat,” Que’niia said.
The USDA's Summer Food Service Program is helping to make that possible. It is being offered at Rainbow Babies and Children's Hospital for the first time this year, providing free, nutritious meals to kids 18 and younger—no questions asked.
“It's very helpful, because I know there's a lot of kids out here that don't have money to get things that they need, and by this program helping the kids eat nutritional food, it's a way of feeding the kids so they won't have to worry about a meal, how are they going to eat this day and the next day, so this is a blessing,” remarked Demiah’s father, Dan Martin.
Rachel Hanna is involved with the program and serves as the outreach coordinator for the Injury Prevention Center at Rainbow. She said it is helping to fill a void and chip away at the huge problem of food insecurity in the area.
“Bringing this program here, we are a center in Northeast Ohio,” Hanna noted. “We're hitting a ton of families, so to be able to offer them a program during the summer months, when they're out of school, then they have access to the healthy food that they maybe might not get during the summer months.”
As for the response so far, Hanna says it has been very well-received. They're getting up to 80 children every day and hoping to serve about 4,000 by the end of program, which ends August 18.
Hanna tells me organizers are already looking into extending the program into next summer.