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Childhood Hunger Statistics


There are many different faces of hunger. Some of the most troubling are the faces of the millions of hungry children throughout the United States.  According to the USDA, over 17 million children lived in food insecure households in 2009.  At Second Harvest, we have also witnessed childhood hunger throughout our service area.  The 2010 Food Bank Census revealed that 36% of the people we served in March through our network of member agencies were children. 

Second Harvest’s commitment to the elimination of hunger extends beyond the traditional food pantries and soup kitchens maintained within our service area. Additionally, we consider it our mission to ensure that children receive adequate nutrition in order to lead healthy and productive lives. Below are descriptions of some of the programs dedicated to feeding children that we encourage and support.


Federal Programs


The National School Lunch Program
The National School Lunch Program is a federally-assisted meal program operating in public and non-profit private schools and residential child care institutions.  It provides nutritionally balanced, low-cost or free lunches to children across the United States.  The program is funded by the United States Department of Agriculture and administered by the Pennsylvania Department of Education. Participating schools must comply with federal nutrition standards and provide free and reduced-priced meals to eligible children.

A child’s eligibility for a free or reduced-priced meal depends on the family income.  Children from families with income at or below 130% of the federal poverty line are eligible for free meals.  Those with incomes between 130% and 185% percent of poverty are eligible for reduced-price meals.  Children from families over 185% of poverty pay full price, though their meals are still subsidized to some extent.


School Breakfast Program

The School Breakfast Program is a federally-funded program that enables public and non-profit private schools and residential child care institutions to provide a free or reduced-priced meals to children who qualify.  The program functions in the same way as the National School Lunch Program so eligibility requirements are the same.  Therefore, if your child is eligible for a free or reduced-priced lunch, they will also qualify for breakfast for free or at a reduced rate. 

Some benefits of participating in school breakfast are increased test scores, decreased school absence and tardiness rates, and decreased emotional and behavioral problems in the classroom. An added benefit for the busy family is that school breakfast is a great time saver.  Children can eat breakfast in school; therefore, parents and kids do not have to prepare breakfast before school.  Also, many students are not hungry upon waking up in the morning, so it allows children time to “wake up” before eating breakfast.  

Despite the many benefits of eating breakfast at school, an overwhelmingly low number of students participate in the program. At Second Harvest, we are dedicated to increasing school breakfast participation rates throughout our service area as a means to help reduce childhood hunger.  We believe that no child should go hungry and that every child should have the tools necessary to learn and succeed-the most basic tool being a balanced breakfast. 

Strategies to increase School Breakfast Participation

  • Work with schools to tailor programs to make breakfast a part of every child’s school day;
  • Provide breakfast outreach materials to promote the program to students and families;
  • Advocate for a strong school breakfast model to the students, faculty, staff, or school board.

If you are interested in creating a school breakfast outreach campaign in your school please contact Second Harvest at 610-434-0875 or


Special Supplemental Nutrition Program for Women, Infants, and Children (WIC)

The Special Supplemental Nutrition Program for Women, Infants, and Children provides Federal grants to States for supplemental foods, health care referrals, and nutrition education for low-income pregnant, breastfeeding, and non-breastfeeding postpartum women, and to infants and children up to age five who are found to be at nutritional risk.

To locate the closest WIC office, or for more information, visit the Pennsylvania WIC Online website.


Summer Food Service Program (SFSP)

The Summer Food Service Program was established to ensure that children from low-income families continue to receive nutritious meals when school is not in session. Free meals that meet federal nutrition guidelines are provided to all children at approved SFSP sites in areas with significant concentrations of low-income children.

Click on your city to find more information about where your child can get free meals during the summer months:

If you run a summer program that serves children, you could be eligible to become a SFSP site.  Please go to the USDA’s Food and Nutrition website for more information.

The Child and Adult Care Food Program (CACFP)
The Child and Adult Care Food Program provides nutritious snacks and meals to licensed child care centers, family day care homes, homeless shelters, after-school programs and adult day care centers for eligible children and adults.

For organizations wishing to participate in the Child and Adult Care Food Program, more information is available on the USDA Nutrition website.


Local Programs


Backpack Buddies (BPB)

Throughout our service area, there are children who may not have access to nutritious meals from lunchtime on Friday until they return to school or their summer activity and have breakfast on Monday. Backpack Buddies seeks to fill that gap by providing easy-to-prepare, kid-friendly food for the weekend.

For more information on Backpack Buddies at Second Harvest click here.