Seattle Foundation Blog

Summer Learning Programs Benefit Kids

Supporting summer programs for kids can prevent learning loss and provide healthy food


May 14, 2019

By Tom McIntire, Program Officer

Summer break can be a time of growth, discovery and fun for children and youth. Family trips, summer camps, field trips, sports and outdoor recreational activities help many students to continue learning throughout the summer and retain more of what they learned in the previous school year.

But, cost, convenience and transportation issues may prevent children from low-income families from participating in beneficial summer programs.

Supporting year-round learning

Fortunately, there are many programs and ways to support kids in summer learning programs. And it’s a good time to support these programs outside of the peak holiday giving season.

Over the summer break, many children and youth forget between one to three months of learning from the previous school year. This is called summer learning loss, which can widen the opportunity gap for low-income students and students of color with each passing year as many students struggle to catch up. Making equitable summer learning programs available for all children can help reduce these disparities.

Healthy food for all

Adding to the negative effects of summer learning loss for many students is the lack of access to healthy food during the summer. Most free breakfast and lunch programs for low-income students are only available during the school year. We know that nutritious food year-round is key to a child’s overall development and ability to learn. And we know that there are stark racial disparities in access to healthy food between children and families from communities of color versus their white counterparts. So, access to healthy food including over the summer, is key to help children thrive in all aspects of their lives.

There are many high quality, accredited summer programs in schools, parks and recreation departments, community and faith-based organizations, libraries and child care centers that help address both summer learning loss and access to healthy foods. These include summer programs from youth-serving nonprofits such as the YMCA, Campfire USA and Boys & Girls Clubs that also provide scholarships or financial aid for students in need.

How to help

Summer programs can include academic support, enrichment opportunities, cultural and social development, outdoor recreation, visual and performing arts, sports, leadership skills and job training.

Many summer learning/enrichment programs recognize the importance of including healthy meals for participating students. Another way to support nutrition for students in need is to contribute to local food banks, some of which have programs that provide food to families or students during the summer.

Supporting summer learning and year-round food access programs for children can help them increase the number of students they serve with healthy meals and enriching experiences over the coming summer months.

Learn more:

School’s Out Washington on Summer Learning

Feeding America: Hunger Deprives Our Kids of More Than Just Food

Explore our Education Element of a healthy community

Consider a contribution to our Basic Needs fund, which supports affordable housing, ending homelessness and healthy foods. 

You can also reach out to me at t.mcintire@seattlefoundation.org with questions or for recommendations on organizations to support. 

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Nonprofit Partners

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educationBasic NeedsChildren and youthCommunities of colorLow income households

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