LAS VEGAS (KSNV & MyNews3) -- We don't have to look far to see hunger in our own backyard, especially among kids who rely on free lunches during the school year.
That's why dozens of sites are open across town are offering free meals to kids throughout the summer.
Hundreds of local children are dining on a complimentary lunch at the Heinrich YMCA. This is one of about 40 sites chosen to offer the summer food service program in Clark County funded through the federal government. Most offer free lunch and some have breakfast.
In our valley many children face hunger.
Karen Vogel, a nutrition programs professional with the Nevada Department of Education, says sometimes families are choosing between rent and food, and food is not winning.
“We have a lot of families that are in financial distress right now and are not always able to afford to have food at home,” Vogal said. “Sometimes it's a long stretch between paychecks or unemployment or disability checks.”
There are approximately 160,000 children in Clark County who qualify for free or reduced lunch program.
“We do it to ensure that children who need a meal when school is out can get one,” Vogal said.”The only well-balanced meal they get during the day comes from a school lunch.”
These lunches are made to be very nutritious and have all the food groups. One lunch included chicken salad for protein, vegetables, fruit, and, of course, milk.
These nutritional standards are set by the federal government and while so many children are considered "hungry" in Southern Nevada, Ronna Bach with the U.S. Department of Agriculture says this is a problem across the United States.
“Truth is, learning doesn't stop when school gets out and neither does the need for good nutrition,” Bach said.
She says studies show poor nutrition in the summer usually shows up with low performance the following school year. But they hope families with financial stress will take advantage of the meals provided to feed the children so later they will be able to feed their minds.