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Campaign Aims to Combat Childhood Hunger During Summer

The Second Harvest Food Bank's "School's Out, Hunger Isn't" campaign seeks to ensure that no child in the county goes hungry.

The start of summer vacation marks the end of free and reduced-price meals, making thousands of children in Santa Clara and San Mateo counties at serious risk for hunger.

To combat childhood hunger, the Second Harvest Food Bank of San Mateo and Santa Clara Counties announced Wednesday its "School's Out, But Hunger Isn't" campaign designed to raise more than $1 million dollars and 100,000 pounds of food this summer.

"Giving to a food bank is common during the holidays, like Thanksgiving and Christmas," said Kathy Jackson, the food bank's CEO. "But people are hungry all year round."

The organization has a goal to provide food for 85,000 children this summer, Jackson said.

Originally known as "Share Your Lunch", this is the campaign's fourth year, she said.

Providing food is critical to the 250,000 people in San Mateo and Santa Clara counties who rely on the food bank every month, Jackson said.

The food bank's traffic is heavy, but it is the intensity of use that is growing, she said.

People who used to visit once a month now come twice, Jackson said.

"If you've been unemployed for that long, you are just out of options," she said.

The number of children and families that rely on the food bank can be surprising, Jackson said.

"In the Silicon Valley or the Bay Area, you tend to think that people are well off," she said. "Many are, but many aren't."

The need for food is expected to lower when school resumes in September, but childhood hunger is a health and educational issue, Jackson said.

"Hungry kids are sick more often, and more likely to miss school," she said. "Hungry kids don't do well in school. They literally can't concentrate."

Children who do not eat three meals a day are also more likely to be obese because usually the food they do eat is unhealthy and lacks the nutritional content provided by fruits and vegetables, Jackson said.

During the summer, families who are already struggling face the added challenge of coming up with meals, she said.

Donations of kid-friendly foods -- macaroni and cheese, tuna, peanut butter, granola bars, and fruit cups -- are the most sought after.

Food can be dropped off at the San Mateo County Distribution Center, located at 1051 Bing St. in San Carlos, or the Santa Clara County Distribution Center, located at 750 Curtner Ave. in San Jose.

Visit www.shfb.org to contribute money to the "School's Out, But Hunger Isn't" campaign. About $10 will provide 20 meals.

Parents who are worried about feeding their children can call the Food Connection Hotline at (800) 984-3663 for information about assistance.

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