Summer Gaps in Learning, Food and Child Care-There Is An Answer

January 1, 2011

June 24, 2010

The first days of summer mean picnics, parties and the start of a three-month-long school vacation for thousands of Minnesota children.  But for many of these same children summer also means they will face gaps in learning, meals and quality childcare.

Learning Disparities:  According to Johns Hopkins sociology Professor Karl Alexander, “low-income youth suffer significantly from a loss of academic skills over the summertime. And the losses pile up, contributing to an achievement gap that can make the difference between whether students set out on a path for college or decide to drop out of high school.”  Research shows that children progress at similar levels during the school year; however, the disparities increase during the summer when low-income children are not exposed to continued enrichment experiences. 

Food Gap: Hunger Solutions Minnesota Director, Colleen Moriarty, explained that one in three of our state’s children, who normally rely on free or reduced-price school breakfasts and lunches, go without those important meals during the summer break.  At the same time, Minnesota’s food shelves experience fewer donations and an increase in use during the summer months and may not be able to fill the meal gap for these children.  Thus, our children may be at greater risk of missing regular, nutritious daily meals.    

Summer Child Care:  Summer often increases the challenges parents face in finding quality childcare while they work.  During the school year, many children remain at school for after-school activities, thus filling the critical need for care during the late afternoon gap.  But in summer, costly camps and summer schools may be outside the family budget and may not run the entire vacation.  For some families, older children, relatives or neighbors may keep an eye on the younger children.  Some children, however, may go unsupervised.  Providing resources for working parents becomes a critical piece in ensuring a safe and nurturing alternative to school.

Freedom Schools®: Fun, Food, and Learning Help Fill the Gaps

The CDF Freedom Schools program provide six-week tuition-free summer enrichment program for Minneapolis and St. Paul children.  Every morning sleepy children begin their day with a nutritious breakfast, followed by ‘Harambee, a rousing coming together of chants, cheers, dances, songs, a read-a-loud, and recognitions.

Then, college-age servant leaders gather their student scholars to read, work on projects or leave for educational field trips.  Another meal marks mid-day and then more lessons – all within a positive structure of fun.

Learn more about Freedom Schools and how you can take part in ensuring its success.  Click here.