School is out and summer is here! For most families this is an exciting time for relaxation, vacations and fun. Unfortunately, this isn’t true for everyone. For many parents, summer is full of worry and doubt. Parents become anxious wondering how they will keep their children safe, healthy and out of trouble. Sadly, summer camps and child care are not options as there are very few affordable choices. Even the affordable options are out of reach. The Department of Health and Human Services defines “affordable child care” as taking up no more than 10 percent of a family’s income, but typically, only upper income families fit into that category.
According to The Governor’s Office of Student Achievement, almost 47,000 students in the Atlanta Public School System are economically disadvantaged and an overwhelming 76% of students are eligible for free or reduced price lunch.
So what exactly do 76% of children eat in the summer? When school is out, how are parents affording to feed their children? For these students, a lack of resources and food for the summer has a negative impact on their behavior and learning processes. Research proves that students lose important math skills during the summer. What’s even more startling is that lower-income students lose reading skills and never gain them back. This loss of learning accounts for about half of the overall difference in the academic achievement gap between low-income and high-income students.
To erase this achievement gap there needs to be an investment in summer programs. Improving a child’s success in school starts with leaders and organizations making a change within their communities.
The City of Atlanta made this investment and launched its Summer Food Program again this year. This program offers free meals to underserved children and teens when school is closed. According to the Atlanta Journal Constitution, the program serves an average of 8,703 meals daily to children in the Atlanta community, totaling more than 249,313 meals to be served by the end of the summer.
This summer program is just one of many programs across the nation and in the Atlanta community. At Communities In Schools of Atlanta, we are providing students with science, technology, engineering and mathematics (STEM) summer programming at Creekside and Banneker High Schools. This programming would not be possible without funding from the Georgia Department of Education 21st Century grant. This program supports the creation of community learning centers that provide academic enrichment opportunities during non-school hours for children, particularly students who attend high-poverty and low-performing schools.
We should all come together to make summer a time where kids can grow, be healthy and have fun. It should be a time for children to unwind and parents to feel stress free. What can you do in your community to alleviate the summertime woes of low-income families?