Wednesday, July 10, 2019

Free Summer Meals Help Reduce Hunger and Prevent Learning Loss When School is Out, Report Finds

Press Release from the Food Research and Action Center + Link to the Full Report
WASHINGTON, July 10, 2019 — Too many children across the country are missing out on the nutrition they need during the summer months when the school year — and access to school breakfast and lunch — come to an end, according to a new report released today by the Food Research & Action Center (FRAC). Hunger Doesn’t Take a Vacation: Summer Nutrition Status Report
finds that 2.9 million children, or only 1 in 7 of the low-income children who participated in school lunch during the 2017–2018 school year, received a summer lunch on an average weekday in July 2018. Fourteen states provided summer lunch to fewer than one child for every 10 children who participated in school lunch. Even fewer children — 1.5 million — ate breakfast at a summer meals site in July 2018.  
“Low-income children miss out on more than just food when summer meals are not available to them,” said Jim Weill, president, FRAC. “Many summer meal sites offer educational and enrichment programming, which, combined with meals, helps reduce food insecurity and summer learning loss for children.”
Across the country, healthy free summer meals are provided at local sites such as schools, recreation centers, libraries, YMCAs, Boys & Girls Clubs, churches, and parks for children ages 18 and under.
If every state reached FRAC’s ambitious, but achievable, goal of reaching 40 children through the Summer Nutrition Programs for every 100 receiving free or reduced-price lunch during the 2017–2018 school year, an additional 5 million children would have been fed each day and states would have collected an additional $425 million in child nutrition funding in July 2018. 
No state met FRAC’s goal last summer, according to the report. The District of Columbia came the closest, serving 34.5 children for every 100 low-income children receiving free and reduced-price school lunch. Three states increased participation in summer lunch from 2017 to 2018 by 10 percent or more: Arizona (18.2 percent), Kentucky (15.1 percent), and Oklahoma (14.9 percent). 
The Child Nutrition Reauthorization, currently being considered by Congress, provides an important opportunity to increase participation in summer meals, says FRAC. The organization is advocating for the inclusion of provisions in the reauthorization to allow communities with substantial but less concentrated poverty — often in rural and suburban areas — to provide summer meals; reduce red tape by allowing sponsors of meal sites to provide food year-round through the Summer Food Service Program (rather than operating this program in the summer and another during the school year); and allow all sites to serve three meals — currently only camps and sites serving migrant children can serve three meals. 
Significant federal, state, and local investments also must be made to support the underlying programs that provide a platform for summer meals; such investments would ensure there are enough affordable summer programs where low-income children can go to eat, learn, and be active during the summer in a safe environment.
“We know that the need for summer meals and affordable, high quality summer programs far exceeds their availability,” said Weill. “FRAC is working with our partners, including the USDA, state and local agencies, anti-hunger organizations, and out-of-school time advocates to redouble our efforts to increase access to the Summer Nutrition Programs.”
About the Hunger Doesn’t Take a Vacation Reports
The Summer Nutrition Status Report measures participation in the Summer Nutrition Programs in July 2018 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, nationally and in each state. The regular school year is used as a benchmark because such a high proportion of low-income children eat school lunch on regular school days. The Summer Breakfast Report similarly measures the reach of breakfast through the Summer Nutrition Programs in July 2018, nationally and in each state.