TAKOMA PARK, Md. (WUSA) - Summer vacation has exposed a sign of hard economic times, even in one of Maryland's wealthy suburban counties.
Many Montgomery County schools that most parents expect to be closed for the summer are opening up to feed neighborhood kids, and demand is growing.
The School system in the nation's 14th most wealthy county launched its annual summer meals program this week. At least 9000 kids will be fed at 114 locations all summer long.
The locations include 10 schools where families can walk in off the street, no questions asked. Everyone under 18 will be offered a lunch free of charge.
Among the "walk-in" sites is Rolling Terrace Elementary School in Takoma Park, where principal Jennifer Connors calls feeding children during the summer a "moral obligation."
Demand for food assistance in Montgomery County rose dramatically between 2011 and 2012. Applications for food stamps is up 11.8%.
In the school system, nearly 33% of students qualify for free meals, a key indicator of economic stress.
"We know hunger does not take a vacation," said Superintendent Joshua Starr, who calls the summer feeding program in schools "vital" for the county's needy families.
The federal government spends nearly $15 million per year to fund school breakfast and lunch programs in Maryland for struggling families..