Food insecurity often accompanies the experience of poverty.

Distinct from hunger, food insecurity is defined as the limited or uncertain access to healthy and safe food, or the limited or uncertain ability to acquire such food for a household [1].

Food insecurity can show up in different ways. A family of four may miss several meals a month simply because they do not have money to buy enough food. Or it can show up in a student who is exhibiting behavior or emotional issues and struggling to learn because necessary nutrients are missing from his or her diet.

Studies of low-income and poor D.C. students found that many students go home over the weekend to households with little or nothing to eat and return to school on Monday hungry and unable to concentrate and learn, often resulting in behavioral issues [2]. And during the summer months households with children are at higher risk of being food insecure because children lose access to school lunches [3].

Feeding our students is an intentional part of our programs, in order to ensure that our students have the essential tools and resources (including meals) to thrive.

Enter DC Central Kitchen, Food Rescue, and the Capital Area Food Bank, dedicated organizations we’ve partnered with who are committed to reducing local food waste and promoting nutritious, balanced diets. Because of these organizations, students in Little Lights programs can count on receiving a protein, a vegetable, a fruit, grains, and milk, throughout the school year and all through the summer. Last year, these organizations helped us serve 9,957 meals.

To Cierra Peterson, a former Little Lights student who now manages programs at Little Lights Hopkins Center, this is one of the most important aspects of our aftercare programming, as many of the children are part of families struggling with food insecurity. Some children may not have dinner waiting for them at home.

“While the parents are working, their kids are able to come here and receive a complete meal,” Cierra says. “Their families can be confident that the student is well-fed when they come home in the evening.”

Special thanks to our food partners for helping us feed our students all year round!


[1] United States Department of Agriculture (2018). Food Security in the U.S.

[2]WUSA- TV, (2017). What is food insecurity?

[3] Journal of Children and Poverty, (2006). pp.141-158. Routledge.