By The Dallas Morning News

Here’s a persistent and sad reality that should spur North Texans to act: Tens of thousands of local kids are living in households where there’s not enough to eat.

Those children are in even more dire straits during the summer months because, for many of them, the school cafeteria offers the only decent meal of the day.

Many individuals have already pitched in to fill the nutrition gap by supporting the special summer campaign of The Dallas Morning News Charities that’s underway through June 29. A buck buys a meal; more than 153 donors already have pitched in more than $35,600.Still, the need is great. The North Texas Food Bank, one of the seven nonprofit agencies participating in this summer drive, estimates that 300,000 kids — that’s one in every four North Texas kids — suffer from food insecurity. That means they either don’t have sufficient food or they face uncertainty around whether there will be meals available.

Remember that, among major cities in the U.S., Dallas still has the third worst child poverty rate, at 30.6 percent. And 9 in 10 students in the Dallas school district qualify for free or reduced lunch.

What a shameful set of facts for a region that is rich in so many other areas.

Underfed kids are sicker and more likely to suffer developmental delays. Poor families are forced to purchase inexpensive and often unhealthy foods in order to have something to eat. That leads to all kinds of health issues, such as obesity and diabetes.

And if you think the problem is mainly a big-city issue and doesn’t touch the suburbs, you’d be wrong. For example, the campaign will help Allen Community Outreach try to provide 1,000 free bags of healthy breakfast and lunch foods for Collin County residents. Ditto for Frisco Family Services, which is working to serve the needs of the 11 percent of Frisco Independent School District kids who live in poverty.

The Dallas Morning News Charities effort is only one of several campaigns this summer. CitySquare has a Summer Food on the Move program. Every weekday morning, CitySquare AmeriCorps members will load vans with food to be distributed at low-income apartment complexes.

DMN Charities donors came through in a big way last summer. The organization’s larger campaign runs each November through January. But in the organization’s inaugural summer drive, it far exceeded its goal of 30,000 meals; this summer’s target is 60,000 meals.

Let’s not stand by and watch our vulnerable kids suffer. North Texas, we can do this.