More than 350,000 children across Greater Atlanta are hungry during the summer months — children like Caleb.

Caleb relied heavily on Bridging the Gap, a partner agency with Atlanta Community Food Bank, and its summer meals site to have lunch daily.

At this site, he built strong friendships with other kids just like him and the volunteers who helped run the site.

Caleb’s mother, Amber, had a “really good life” until a car accident three years ago affected her legs and made it impossible for her to work. This past summer, Amber had been watching neighborhood kids at her home and had taken them all to the park where these meals were being served.

“They went down there, and they got a lunch, which was a surprise because I didn’t know it was down there,” Amber says. “That’s how Caleb and the other kids I had with me at the time met these guys, and they really liked them.”

Amber said her son went every day.

“It wasn’t just about the food,” she says. “It was about the friendliness they showed him. At that time, my husband was gone for two months, and he’s the main income. It showed [Caleb] support to be able to talk to someone else instead of just me all the time.”

United Way of Greater Atlanta launched its Silence the Growl summer meal initiative six years ago with the purpose of feeding children who are hungry each summer because they don’t have access to school lunches.

In six years, more than 230,000 meals fed children in need. United Way’s efforts have been successful. In 2019, United Way reached its goal of serving 80,000 meals. This success has allowed the program to expand year-round and because of programs like this, kids can focus on more important things — like, being kids.

United Way saw after its strategic planning meeting two years ago that the zip code a child lived in too often determined the fate of that child. United Way saw that, statistically, because of what zip code a child was born into, he or she was handed a disadvantage beyond their control. Through a set of 14 measures, United Way calculated at the time a child well-being score of 58.9.

On May 9, officials announced the score had improved in two years to 61.8. That equates to a change in the lives of more than 82,000 children in the region living in low or very low child well-being. By using the child as the lens, we can identify the big picture needs of the community, and if the child is fed, then there’s one less thing he or she needs to worry.

Amber is appreciative of all the summer meals that were given to her son.

“You have to be fed to even function on a daily basis,” she says. “Even for children to function right in their mind at anything they do, they have to have [food].

“There’s more people out there than we know. There’s more people than we think that don’t want to let anybody know they’re in that situation.”

If you would like to help us Silence the Growl across Greater Atlanta year-round, and give kids the opportunity to reach their full potential, click here.