07/25/2011

Union Members Beat the Heat to Curb Child Hunger

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United Federation of Teachers (UFT) members went door-to-door in New York City July 16 to raise awareness of summer meals programs for kids. Besides canvassing, the group of friends and colleagues intercepted people on the street and visited a community college to get the word out.

Share Our Strength  UFT member Melissa Heller, a speech and language pathologist, wanted to do something about child hunger beyond donating money. She joined her co-workers who had read about the summer program promoted by Share Our Strength, an AFT partner in the fight against childhood hunger. The UFT volunteers met early that Saturday morning at a rescue mission in lower Manhattan, where they were equipped with hats, water and bright orange sunglasses, plus transit fare cards and maps. They then fanned out with about a hundred other volunteers to distribute thousands of fliers about SOS's No Kid Hungry campaign.

Children burn more calories over the summer but have less access to food—especially good, balanced meals. Although 21 million American students rely on free or reduced-price lunches during the school year, fewer than 3 million get these kinds of meals when school is closed, says Billy Shore, executive director of SOS, which is promoting summer meals programs in more than 10 states.

The UFT members proved resourceful, even walking into a community college where they knew there was a child care program. They also visited street vendors and shop clerks to pass along information about the more than 1,000 sites across the city that are serving free breakfast and lunch to children this summer.

"I love this cause," says UFT member Virginia Hill, also a speech-language pathologist. "It's definitely a good thing to be involved with."

"It was a very good experience," adds Heller, "although it was very hot."

Visit the Share Our Strength website for details about the summer meals campaign and to take the No Kid Hungry pledge. [Annette Licitra, photo credit: Share Our Strength]

July 25, 2011