The results are in and they raise cause for concern. Participation in the Summer Nutrition Programs has dropped once again for the second year in a row, according to the annual Hunger Doesn’t Take a Vacation: Summer Nutrition Status Report released by the Food Research and Action Center (FRAC) last week. This puts more low-income children at increased risk of food insecurity. In a news release issued by FRAC, the Report finds that only 3 million children received a nutritious summer lunch on an average weekday in July 2017 through the Summer Nutrition Programs compared to the 20 million children who participated in free and reduced-price school lunch during the 2016–2017 school year. Even fewer children — 1.6 million — ate breakfast at a summer meal site in July 2017.
After four years of significant growth (2011–2015), last summer’s small drop of 14,000 fewer children participating in summer lunch programs further compounds the larger decrease in 2016 of 153,000, a 4.8 percent drop.
“It’s time to redouble efforts to ensure more low-income children have access to summer meals sites where they can eat healthy foods, learn, and play in a safe environment,” said Jim Weill, president, Food Research & Action Center.
While most states mirrored the national trend of decreased participation from July 2016 to July 2017, 15 states increased participation in summer lunch, with two growing by 25 percent or more: Georgia (37.7 percent) and New Jersey (25 percent). This growth was largely a result of strong outreach efforts by state agencies and partner organizations.
Noting the “missed opportunities” the Report states: “The Summer Nutrition Programs can bring millions of dollars to states. For every lunch that an eligible child did not receive in 2017, the state and community missed out on $3.77 per child in federal Summer Food Service Program funding. That means many millions of dollars were left on the table.”
Of course, it’s not too late to increase outreach efforts this summer. See my previous blog for some summer meal tips. We suggest you keep summer simple by using prepackaged meals like our Breakfast BREAS and Meal BREAKS a grab & go option. Please feel free to contact us for help with your summer meal planning.