by Mike Ferguson
(St. Charles, MO) – For most children in Missouri, summer is the time to relax and enjoy the break from school.
For others, it’s a time to find a short term job and save money. It’s also a time to hone athletic skills with an eye on soccer, football, volleyball and other sports that are just a few months away. Summer equates to freedom for children and teens across the state.
Most of the time.
For others, summer is the time some experts say children – particularly those in low income homes – fall behind their classmates.
This week, Missouri’s Assistant Commissioner of Education, Dr. Sharon Helwig, explains why being away from the classroom impacts poorer children more than those from middle and upper income homes. While teachers are likely to tell you all children need to brush up on their schoolwork the first few weeks of class each school year, Helwig says an academic gap is sometimes created over the summer months that everyone should be concerned about.
Find out why income matters and what every parent can do to keep their child ready for the next challenge in their education.
Also, the school year is about more than just books, ball games and band practice. For thousands of Missouri children, it’s also about food because the free and reduced meals may be the only solid nutrition they get.
Monica Palmer from Feeding Missouri has the startling numbers about “food insecurity” in the Show Me State. That’s a nice way of categorizing the number of families who are choosing between bills and groceries each month. When school ends for the year, so does the supply of free or reduced meals for some children. Missouri’s network of food banks has many backpack programs (sometimes called “Buddy Packs”) for kids in need that allows them to take food home but even access to that ends on the last day of school.
For those still in need during the summer, Palmer has advice on accessing nutrition for the whole family. For those of us blessed enough to not have to worry about our next meal, she explains how easy it is to help. She also says you may be surprised by who is in need of help with food right now. Food insecurity is in neighborhoods you probably don’t expect.
Feeding Missouri and its network of food banks is not a government program . It relies on donations of canned and boxed food, fresh food from gardens, volunteers and money.
On the web:
Missouri Department of Education: www.DESE.MO.gov
Feeding Missouri: www.FeedingMissouri.org