Summer means hunger, as well as sunshine, for many school-aged children. You can help.

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SUMMER means sunshine and bike riding for many kids. But during the break from school, some children also experience a break from regular meals.

Families of the 477,828 Washington children who qualified for free or reduced-price meals during the school year that is just ending have to work a lot harder to provide meals during the summer months.

Nonprofits like the United Way of King County work with state and federal agencies to provide meals in parks, at libraries and other places during the summer. Food banks also try to fill in the gaps, but find their shelves are nearly empty during the warmer months.

People who have plenty of food at home and want to help others should pick up a few extra jars of peanut butter and other nutritious food when they visit the grocery store and drop a bag off at their local food bank. Northwest Harvest offers a searchable statewide database of food banks.

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A donation to United Way would help support about 250 summer meal sites around King County. Summer meal programs in Snohomish County are provided by local schools, the YMCA and other nonprofits.

For information about free meals anywhere in the United States this summer, look to No Kid Hungry, a program of the nonprofit Share Our Strength. That organization also has a help line, where parents can text “food” to 877-877 to find nearby free summer meals.

Only about 14 percent of the children who usually get a free or reduced-price lunch at school during the academic year participate in summer food programs in Washington state, according to Share Our Strength. Church or community groups that want to join the summer food program next year and get federal dollars to help pay for those meals, should contact the state Office of the Superintendent of Public Instruction.

Most office and church food drives happen in December. Businesses can consider celebrating in June this year with a company food drive.

When you’re at the grocery store or sitting down to a delicious picnic, please remember that summer is a hungry time for many schoolchildren and their families.