When Lunch Is No Picnic

Seth Doane is a CBS News correspondent based in New York.
When school is out for the summer, the free or reduced-price meals that millions of kids depend on each day during the school year stop as well. The federal government is stepping up efforts to address this meal-gap, but there are a number of hurdles for organizations interested in trying to offer meals. One of the challenges is finding places where kids assemble.

So, more and more, parks and summer camps are becoming feeding sites.

We met Crystal Hamilton and her kids one morning earlier in July as they were getting ready to walk to a local park for a free bag lunch. Crystal says she's thankful that the local Salvation Army is close. Their car is broken and they can't afford the parts and labor to fix it. Even if their car was working - putting gas in it would be the next stumbling block.

For Crystal and her husband, O.B., this summer lunch program eases some of the pressure of buying enough food to put another meal on the table. Crystal lost her job, and O.B. is cleaning carpets for about half what he made in his former job as a driver for cement and construction trucks. Though they receive government assistance, they still struggle to provide healthy meals for their kids.

I can't imagine having a national TV crew show up on my doorstep and pry into my life. Crystal and O.B. were incredibly gracious hosts and were quite candid about their financial struggles. They weren't able to answer some of my questions, like "where do you go from here?" … because they just don't know.

Crystal explains that they need the government assistance to survive but have tried and tried to get off of it. But, as the costs of the basics rise higher and higher - that is only getting more difficult. Something as simple as a sandwich can help. And there are programs out there around the nation that you can turn to if you're looking for a little extra help.

The USDA is expanding their efforts to help fill the summer-lunch gap and America's Second Harvest is doing the same with its program. Either organization might be able to help direct you to a program nearby.

You can check out my report on summer lunches and the Hamilton Family by clicking here, or watch the video below.