Two weeks into MUST Ministries’ summer lunch program, Kristen Miller received a troubling email.

Miller, who works as a Community Outreach Coordinator for MUST, says a mother of six children emailed her letting her know she needed help feeding her family.

“I immediately contacted the lead volunteer at our closest host site and asked if we could add them to one of our routes,” Miller said. “The next day, we were serving them lunches.”

Each summer, more than 350,000 children are hungry. These children have come to expect the lunch provided by their school, and during the summer, that one reliable meal they had the other 10 months is no longer available.

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.

Miller said about a week after she served the family, she was able to assist volunteers as they delivered to the family.

“As we pulled up to their house, she and her children were so excited to see us,” Miller said. “She looked at my name tag and exclaimed, ‘Oh my goodness! You’re the one who helped me! Thank you so much for helping me feed my kids!’”

The mother of six stood there in the doorway with Miller, hugging her as tears rolled down her cheek.

“This was just one of the many experiences that emotionally moved me and reinforced how grateful I am to be serving our community,” Miller said.

United Way of Greater Atlanta began serving its community in a new way about two years ago following its strategic planning meeting. The nonprofit began to notice that a child too often had his or her destiny determined by the zip code they grew up in — they were 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, and United Way began intentionally targeting efforts in areas of low child well-being.

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.

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.