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Good News: Summer Food Participation Grows!
June 16, 2014
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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 a new report released by the Food Research and Action Center (FRAC). Nearly three million children participated in the Summer Nutrition Programs in July 2013, an increase of 161,000 children, or 5.7 percent, from July 2012.

The detailed annual report Hunger Doesn’t Take a Vacation, issued this month, shows momentum for continued growth in the federal Summer Nutrition Programs – which include the Summer Food Service Program (SFSP) and the National School Lunch Program (NSLP).

“More low-income children are eating federally-funded summer meals subject to federal nutrition standards, and that’s good news for families and communities across the nation,” said FRAC President Jim Weill. “Summer meals are moving in a positive direction, but we need to accelerate progress. Summer meals only are reaching one in seven low-income children. States and cities should continue to build on their successes so we can keep reducing the summer hunger gap.”

A good deal of the growth in summer food participation can be attributed to the leadership of the U.S. Department of Agriculture (USDA), which made increasing the numbers of summer meals served a top priority for the agency. 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. USDA achieved these results by partnering with national organizations to increase the number of sponsors and sites providing summer meals and to increase the number of children who participated; and by undertaking aggressive steps to provide hands-on assistance to states.

FRAC report findings:

• In July 2013 , the Summer Nutrition Programs (i.e., SFSP and NSLP combined) served lunch to nearly three million children on an average day. The total number of children participating in Summer Nutrition increased by more than 161,000, or 5.7 percent, from July 2012 to July 2013. Since 2008 when the Great Recession began, this was the largest increase in the total number of children participating and was the largest percent-increase in participation since 2003.

 • Still, in July 2013, only 15.1 children received Summer Nutrition for every 100 low-income students who received lunch in the 2012-2013 school year . That is, only one child in seven who needed summer food was getting it.

 • The ratio of 15.1:100 in July 2013 was an increase compared to the ratio of 14.3:100 in July 2012. The higher ratio was due to more than 161,000 additional children participating in summer nutrition in July 2012 compared to July 2013, along with more than 27,000 fewer low-income students participating in NSLP during the 2012-2013 school year than in 2011-2012.

 • Both the number of SFSP sponsors and sites increased in July 2013 compared to July 2012.