Summer can add stress to families already struggling for basic needs, especially food.

Kids on summer vacation aren’t on campus to get meals, for example. And the state drought has led to agriculture job cutbacks.

But if you can afford to help Kings County’s struggling families, here are a few simple ways to get involved.

Donate food

“We will never turn anyone away,” said Rosie Cervantes, director of St. Vincent de Paul Center in Hanford.

As a result, the food pantry helps at least 22,000 people over the course of a year, Cervantes said.

That includes supplying families with two bags of groceries — enough for two weeks at a time.

“Sometimes they just need something to help get them to pay day,” said Cervantes, who said her group works solely off donations.

Kings Community Action Organization, or KCAO, hands out government commodities, plus manages a summer food program for children (ages 0-18). The group also gives additional food to families who can show their income has been affected by the drought.

While the structure is there, keeping up with all that food need is a challenge.

So food donations are vital, especially for the working poor.

“We want to give them a hand up, not a hand out,” Cervantes said.

Stretch those dollars

Giving money is even more efficient, because charities often get discounts on food.

“We’re able to stretch those dollars,” said Jeff Garner, executive director of KCAO. Charities can buy chicken, for example, a few dollars cheaper than a typical community member.

It’s also a way to keep perishable food fresh as it’s given away.

Pay for milk

Fresh dairy milk is a challenge for food pantries, simply because of storage.

That’s where the American Milk Drive comes in.

If you visit, you can pay for a gallon of milk or more. Using your zip code, a coupon is sent to a local food bank so a family can get a special coupon. That special coupon can be handed to a family in need and redeemed at a grocery store for milk.

“Milk is one of the least donated items, but it’s one of the most requested items [among needy families],” said Jennifer Giambroni, director of communications for Real California Milk, which started the program last year.

Give goods

Helping Kings County’s poor with other essential items — including toiletries — can free up money to use on food.

St. Vincent de Paul Center collects soaps, shampoo, toothpaste — including those you might collect during a hotel stay — to give to struggling families. And once a month, the group ventures out to find homeless people who could use the products.

The group even makes good use of often-tossed items like plastic forks and ketchup packets, when donated.

Get a group involved

KCAO would welcome church groups, service clubs and other organizations that could volunteer in bulk.

It could be hosting a site for the summer food program or distributing food for drought-affected families.

The more groups that get involved to distribute the work, the better.