LEWISTOWN - According to the United States Department of Agriculture, 8.3 million children live in food-insecure households.
Low food security includes conditions such as reduced quality, variety or desirability of diet. More drastic cases often find situations of disrupted eating patterns and reduced food intake. While students are guaranteed one healthy, nutritious meal each day through our local school districts, the question of where these children eat throughout the summer began to weigh heavily on the minds of community leaders.
As a result of this concern, the Summer Food Program was established in 2004. The United Way of Mifflin-Juniata partners with the Lewistown Giant, Mifflin-Juniata Food Services and several agencies across Mifflin and Juniata counties to ensure that children from food-insecure homes have access to one free meal per day in the summer as they do during the school year. With assistance from the Department of Education, this project distributed 5,865 meals from June to August in 2013.
The program serves participants at 10 different sites such as the Tuscarora Intermediate Unit's Project Yes, LUMINA Center, Fayette Area Lions Den and the Juniata County Library. Many of these locations provide two meals to students, either breakfast and lunch or lunch and a snack.
As one of the early initiators for the Summer Food Program, United Way Executive Director Marie Mulvihill has seen the impact this effort has had on the children of this region. According to Mulvihill, one of the program's greatest strengths is the opportunity to "expose kids to new foods on a regular basis, something as simple as seeing hot mashed potatoes and green beans for the first time."
To bring that nourishment to area children is just one of the many ways that the 2014 United Way campaign looks to reach out and improve the health of our people.