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Summertime: The livin' is not easy

Summer is the hardest time of the year for low-income families, especially for children that lack access to consistent meals and educational opportunities. Parents have to stretch an already tight budget in order to feed their children. Most of the time parents are forced to purchase unhealthy food, because cheap food is usually the most unhealthy. Low-income children that do not have access to nutritional meals are at a higher risk for weight gain in the summer months. However, there is relief to be found in the summer feeding program offered by Wyoming Food for Thought Project.

This program ensures that children receive free nutritional meals when school is not in session. Our organization also provides ‘food is free’ gardens, where anyone can stop by and collect various vegetables and herbs. This service is especially essential in food deserts like north Casper. Food deserts are defined as areas where fresh fruit, vegetables, and other healthful whole foods are inaccessible due to a lack of grocery stores, farmers' markets, and healthy food providers. In order to combat the negative effects of food deserts, Wyoming Food for Thought tends over 120 gardens plots with the assistance of over 180 kids. This provides children with access to free nutritional food, while at the same time giving kids the opportunity to engage in educational opportunities.

Another strain for low-income families during the summer is the price of child care, whether in the form of daycare, camps, or programs. Summer vacation is based on the assumption that there is a two-parent family, where one parent stays home with the kids while the other parent works. In most cases this is not true. Summer programs for children are insanely expensive, and this does not take into consideration the cost of transportation and supplies. Fortunately, in our community Wyoming Food for Thought provides inexpensive educational programs for children. Some of our programs are funded by grants and community sponsorship, which allow children to attend for free. Our programs allow a successful level of integration for children and the community. Through observation, kids that take part in our programs, gain confidence in identifying healthy foods, as well as developing useful techniques when preparing simple meals. We provide educational opportunities for low-income children that they would have otherwise not had access to.

Summer learning loss is experienced to a greater degree for low-income people than their peers in a higher income bracket. This learning loss widens the achievement gap, and in turn contributes to a high dropout rate. According to the American Camp Association, 70 percent of campers come from middle- and upper-income households. Our programs assist in combating the achievement gap that many low-income kids face in the summer by providing well-rounded, interactive activities.

Summertime, to many, is a time for relaxation and fun, but for many low-income families this is quite the opposite. Our organization’s mission is to provide the missing link for these families by providing access to free nutritional food and inexpensive educational opportunities. The basis of our vision is to contribute the necessary resources so that children can lead healthy, independent, and productive lives. At Wyoming Food for Thought, we strive to ensure that all children do not escape notice when it comes to access to a healthy meal.

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