PINE BELT (WDAM) - This is a news release from the Summer Food Service Program.
After three years of significant growth, national participation in the Summer Nutrition Programs plateaued last summer, according to the Food Research & Action Center's annual Hunger Doesn't Take a Vacation report (pdf) released today.
During July 2015, the programs served nearly 3.2 million low-income children across the country, a modest increase of 11,000 participants from July 2014. The Child Nutrition Reauthorization currently being considered by Congress provides an important opportunity to invest in the Summer Nutrition Programs so that more children return to school in the fall, well-nourished and ready to learn.
"Status quo is not good enough when it comes to the well-being of our nation's children," said FRAC President Jim Weill. "More must be done to expand access to summer meals if we are to close the hunger gap and reduce the summer 'learning slide' for millions of our nation's children. Greater investments are needed to make these good programs even better. "
The report measures the success of Summer Nutrition Programs at the national and state levels both in absolute numbers and by comparing the number of children receiving summer meals to the number of low-income children receiving school lunch during the regular school year.
By that measure, less than one in six children (15.8:100) who needed summer nutrition received it in 2015.
If every state had reached the goal of 40 children participating in Summer Nutrition in July 2015 for every 100 receiving free or reduced-price lunch during the 2014–2015 school year, an additional 4.9 million children would have been fed each day, and states would have collected an additional $384 million in child nutrition funding in July alone (assuming the programs operated 22 weekdays).
The Summer Nutrition Programs, which include the Summer Food Service Program and the National School Lunch Program over the summer period, provide free meals at participating summer sites at schools, parks, other public agencies, and nonprofits for children under 18. Not only do children benefit from the free meals, but they also benefit from the enrichment activities that keep them learning and engaged.
Leadership by the U.S. Department of Agriculture has been a key factor in increasing participation in the summer nutrition programs.
The agency has prioritized summer meal growth by partnering with national organizations to increase the number of sponsors and sites and by providing hands-on assistance to states. While participation rates varied greatly throughout the country, 29 states saw growth in summer nutrition from 2014–2015 as a result of state agencies and partner organizations intensifying their outreach efforts.
"We're on the right trajectory, but more must be done," added Weill. "Working together, we can ensure every child has a hunger-free summer."
The report is available online here.