Warm weather prevails, and signed yearbooks are cherished. These are just a few signals that yet another school year is complete and summer vacation is right around the corner.
For schoolchildren, it’s a time of pure joy and anticipation — a look ahead. For parents, it’s a few months of lightheartedness, freedom from schooltime routines and an opportunity for making lifelong memories. Impromptu picnics in the park, long days at our beautiful beaches, and patio cookouts with friends and family are all part of the collective summer experience that makes this such a special time of year. Food is a critical component in these connections, serving as a catalyst that brings people together.
While food brings so many of us together during summer and throughout the year, one in four children will face the uncertainty of hunger this summer. When school lets out, tens of thousands of children in our community lose access to two-thirds of their daily meals — specifically the breakfast and lunch they would normally receive at school. For these children, the weight of worry, which no child or family should have to bear, clouds this meaningful time.
But not this summer.
We at Feeding Tampa Bay rally around the notion that food makes tomorrow possible. Fresh, healthy food today gives families the tools to further unlock the pathway to a lifetime of self-sustainability. We strive to nourish children across our communities year-round, so when schools close for the academic year and families can no longer access school breakfast and lunch, we step in with our dedicated summer programs to fill the meal gap.
Programs like Cereal for Summer and Summer Feeding Meal Sites help children focus on the joys of summer rather than on hunger. These accessible, healthy foods not only encourage more sustainable lives but also nourish a sense of security and certainty. It’s more than a meal. When children have access to proper nutrition, they can experience a renewed sense of freedom — freedom from the worries of hunger, but also the freedom to enjoy making the kinds of summer memories we all deserve and cherish.
Ending summer hunger fosters the psychological connection to food as well. Research shows when students have consistent access to healthy meals, their classroom success and overall learning focus and development benefit. In addition to succeeding in the classroom, children also deserve to enjoy themselves and experience the prime of their childhoods.
I think back to my favorite summer memories growing up—and while raising my own children. The simple delights of popsicles by the pool, embracing the beaming sun on our faces or enjoying sizzling hot dogs at baseball games are unmatched. Every child deserves the freedom to look back on their own summers just as fondly.
Through our partnerships, donors and advocates, children and their families can lean on Feeding Tampa Bay for fresh, nutritious foods this summer and every day of the year. To learn how you can help us fill the summer meal gap and more, visit FeedingSummerMemories.com.
About the Author: Kelley K. Sims serves as Chief Development Officer for Feeding Tampa Bay. Her responsibilities encompass corporate, foundation and individual philanthropy; marketing and branding; and volunteer relations, organizational events and donor communications. Feeding Tampa Bay serves over 1 million people, having provided 85 million meals in 2020 alone within its 10-county region.
Sims has more than 35 years of experience with educational, social and health service nonprofit organizations. She serves on the Tampa !p Advisory Board and is active with Leadership Tampa Alumni, the Association of Fundraising Professionals and the Women’s C-Suite of Tampa Bay. She also served on committees for the Greater Tampa Chamber of Commerce. She was recently inducted into the Florida chapter of KNOW leaders; was selected as a Gold Winner for Fundraising Excellence and a Business Woman Leader Extraordinaire; and has received an ADDY Award and a Telly Award.
Kelley and her husband, Earl, live in Carrollwood and enjoy having their three grown children, Korey, Kyle and Kambria, and grandchildren, Carson and Carolina, nearby.
Photos provided by Feeding Tampa Bay