ABC News is taking a closer look at the growing number of families in the United States who go hungry in a full day of reports, "Hunger at Home: Crisis in America" . To help combat the problem, ABC News launched a test-to-donate program. Viewers can text F-E-E-D to 50555 to make a $10 donation to Feeding America, a leading domestic hunger relief organization.
When class is in session, students can count on four things -- reading, writing, arithmetic and lunch. The national school lunch program supplies a free, nutritious meal every school day. But during the summer break, there's worry that students may lose more than academic gains. Many also lose the one meal that is guaranteed.
To help fill the gap, the Lunch Bus rolls in. The new, mobile feeding program is run by the Greater Chicago Food Depository (chicagosfoodbank.org). During the summer, it drops by 15 locations five days a week and provides a free lunch to children.
"It fills them up till dinner, I guess," Melissa, the mother of five, said. "It helps us greatly, like financially."
Last summer, the bus delivered about 15,000 lunches. This summer, that number has skyrocketed to more than 25,000. Little Village ranks first among Chicago neighborhoods with the highest number of children who need lunches during the summer.
"The biggest reason, frankly, is poverty. Hunger is a symptom of poverty. High unemployment rates mean there are many, many people simply struggling to make ends meet and when you're struggling to make ends meet, it's difficult to make sure you have enough quality food in the household for everyone in the family," Kate Maehr, executive director, Greater Chicago Food Depository, said.
Parents say the meals are a welcomed addition during these tough economic times. Eloisa Estrada brings her three children to this park for lunch every day.
"It's a very big help because right now I don't have a job and my mom helps me. So it's like we're saving at home and financially, maybe I'm saving about a hundred bucks a month," Estrada said.
The bus will make deliveries through September second. That's the Friday before all students head back to school -- where most are guaranteed a free lunch.
The lunch bus also delivers meals in Chicago Heights. The far southern suburb was also found to have one of the highest rates of childhood hunger in our area.
The Lunch Bus is funded through a federal program geared only toward children. The greater Chicago Food Depository is trying to raise private funds so that next summer, they can also feed adults. Learn more about the Lunch Bus or make donations at chicagosfoodbank.org