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Granite State Rumblings: For Some Children Summer Is Not Fun In The Sun, It Means An Empty Belly

Image by USDA.GOV (Flickr CC)

Image by USDA.GOV (Flickr CC)

Summer is coming and children will soon be getting out of school. For many kids summer vacation means cook outs and family reunions to attend, with lots of food, and plenty of fun.

But for millions of low-income children, it means empty stomachs and uncertainty. They will lose access to school breakfast, lunch and afterschool meals that are available during the regular school year. So what happens to the children during the summer months when school is not in session?

The Summer Food Programs are there to fill this gap by providing free meals and snacks to children who might otherwise go hungry.

Many summer food sites provide educational enrichment and recreational activities along with meals and snacks, helping children continue to learn and stay safe when school is not in session. The meals provided through summer nutrition programs act as a magnet to draw children to these activities.

Schools can apply to operate the Seamless Summer Option through the National School Lunch (NSLP) or School Breakfast Programs (SBP). Continue the same meal service rules and claiming procedures used during the regular school year. Although the traditional Summer Food Service Program is still available to schools, the Seamless Summer Option offers a streamlined approach to feeding hungry children in your community.

Promoting summer feeding sites in your community is one of the most important things you can do to ensure no child goes hungry this summer.  The more parents, children, and teenagers know about where sites are located, the more children will come to eat.  Anyone can do outreach using the resources on the Summer Food Service Program site.  Sites, sponsors, community advocates, and volunteers can use a variety of tools to draw attention to summer meals.

A new report from FRAC shows that summer food participation is growing across the Nation:

In 2013, for the first time in a decade, the number of low-income children eating summer meals saw a substantial increase year-over-year, according to Hunger Doesn’t Take a Vacation, a new report released today by the Food Research and Action Center (FRAC). Nearly three million children participated in the Summer Nutrition Programs on an average day in July 2013, an increase of 161,000 children, or 5.7 percent, from July 2012.

Not only did the number of low-income children eating summer meals grow, but there also was progress in reaching a higher proportion of children in need. FRAC measures the success of the Summer Nutrition Programs at the national and state levels by comparing the number of children receiving summer meals to the number of low-income children receiving school lunch during the regular school year. The programs grew to serve 15.1 children for every 100 low-income children who participated in school lunch during the 2012-2013 school year, a modest increase from the 14.3:100 served in the 2011-2012 school year.

A good deal of the growth in summer food participation can be attributed to the leadership of the U.S. Department of Agriculture (USDA). USDA Secretary Tom Vilsack set the goal of providing five million more meals in the summer of 2013; the results show that USDA surpassed its goal, serving seven million more meals in 2013 than in 2012.

In short, this is encouraging news for families and communities across the nation. Summer meals are moving in a positive direction, but still only reach one in seven low-income children. Accelerating progress will further reduce the summer hunger gap. Looking ahead to the upcoming Child Nutrition Reauthorization, FRAC noted that Congress should make some key investments in the program, most notably looking at ways to help more areas qualify for the Summer Nutrition Programs—making the rules conform to those in other programs – and easing administrative requirements.

Share this report and help spread the word about summer food!

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About MaryLou Beaver

New Hampshire Campaign Director Every Child Matters Education Fund
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