Audrey Walker says breakfast is the “key to giving our kids a kick start for the day.” She should know. As Director of Youth Services at Jubilee Housing—one of the Food Bank’s nonprofit partners —Audrey runs the summer camp where kids are provided breakfast and lunch every day through the Capital Area Food Bank summer meals program.
Audrey knows that many of the children in the program struggle with hunger—and that when school is out, the meals they eat at camp might be the only meals they eat at all. This chronic hunger has consequences, Audrey says. “Last year, we had a little boy named Brandon who had just started with the program. Hunger was making it hard for him to sit still and focus. He couldn’t get into the rhythm and routine of the camp’s transitions.”
Brandon’s story isn’t unique. In fact, as schools close for the summer, dozens of the food bank’s summer meals locations across the region become a nutrition lifeline for 200,000 children who rely on free or reduced cost school breakfast and lunch programs during the rest of the year.
“The kids are really excited to come to the table to eat,” Audrey says of Jubilee’s daily communal breakfast. “They love trying all the different options each day.”
The nutrition from breakfast and lunch is the kids’ fuel for a day full of activity. Audrey’s younger campers go on field trips to the Natural History Museum, the Air and Space Museum, and other fun learning locations. Her older campers take swimming lessons at American University and go on an annual canoe trip in the Shenandoah Valley. And each child works on educational projects.
For Brandon, routinely getting two healthy meals a day throughout the summer made all the difference. Audrey noticed that by the summer’s final month, Brandon was able to adapt to the camp transitions. He could focus on his activities.
“I really believe the food helped sustain him and keep him engaged in the program,” Audrey says. “Our summer camp is really about enrichment. Field trips, cultural lessons, STEM projects, and more. But true enrichment means we must nourish the mind AND the body. Food is the engine for this whole program.”