Last week the 2011 analysis of Summer Nutrition Programs, Hunger Doesn’t Take a Vacation, was released by the Food Research and Action Center (FRAC), documenting the continuing downward trend in participation. Since July 2008, total participation nationwide in the Summer Nutrition Programs has dropped by 90,000 children. In July 2010, only 15 children received Summer Nutrition for every 100 low-income students who received lunch on an average day in the 2009-2010 school year. “It’s time to reverse this trend. This is a time for action,” said Jim Weill, president of FRAC.
We share his sentiment and applaud the recommendations and awareness brought to this issue by FRAC. We all have to do what we can – program by program – to increase summer participation levels. In its effort to help end childhood hunger, the got breakfast? Foundation last week awarded Silent Hero Grants to organizations to create, support and expand Summer Nutrition Programs. Take a look at this year’s winners and see what kind of an impact a single program can have.
Lincoln-Lancaster County Health Department
The Lincoln Lancaster County Health Department has coordinated the SFSP in the city of Lincoln, Nebraska for 30 years. According to grant recipient Michael Heyl, they generally operate between 30-34 sites for 10 weeks every summer. They have grown from 32,000 meals per summer to almost 100,000 meals per summer in less than 9 years! The Department partners with community centers, park and recreation centers, summer school programs, cultural centers, churches, and the Salvation Army to provide food to the children in their programs. They provide breakfasts and lunches to 90% of our sites with the other 10% providing just lunches.
East Texas Food Bank
Texas has the second highest rate of food insecurity in the nation among children under 18, and nearly 1 in 4 Texas children is at risk of hunger. To combat this issue, The East Texas Food Bank in Tyler, Texas, launched the Summer Food Service Program in 2005, which serves free breakfasts and lunches to children in economically depressed areas. According to grant recipient John Benedetti, they served 16,000 meals at 13 sites in the first year of the program. Since that time the program has grown to 53 sites across 15 counties and will likely serve more than 200,000 meals in 2011! In addition to serving free breakfasts and lunches, the Food Bank also plans an enrichment program to help attract children to the sites and encourage them to return. This includes sports activities, nutrition education games and lessons, team-building exercises, and other recreational activities.