Summer Nutrition Programs in Trouble; Failing to Meet Growing Need

As the national recession left families reeling, only 29.3 percent of low-income children participated daily in the Summer Nutrition Programs in Delaware in July 2009, according to a new report released yesterday by the Food Research and Action Center (FRAC). This compared to the more than 126,000 low-income children who received school lunches during the regular school year – the vast majority of whom needed summer meals.

The gap is one clear measure of the depth of summer hunger in Delaware. If our state were to reach just 40 children with summer food for every 100 low-income children who get school lunch during the regular school year, a goal some other states reach, Delaware would have fed 4,672 more children every day in July 2009 and brought in $321,713 more federal dollars to do so.

However, Delaware’s performance was better than the rate for the nation as a whole. Nationally, only 16.1 percent of low-income children received summer meals, according to Hunger Doesn’t Take a Vacation, an annual analysis by FRAC. The report measures national and state trends in summer nutrition and compares states by determining for each the number of low-income children receiving summer food compared to the number of such children who receive regular school year lunch.

Congress is currently working on reauthorizing all of the federal child nutrition programs, including the Summer Nutrition Programs, and key leaders have proposed a significant increase in funding. We joined FRAC in calling for Congress to invest new dollars into expanding the reach of the Summer Nutrition Programs. In its national report, FRAC made the following recommendations:

  • Improving the program’s too-narrow area eligibility test so that children from low-income families in a broader range of poor communities are able to participate;
  • Expanding to all states the Year-Round Summer Food Pilot, currently only in effect in California, which reduces paperwork and eases administrative requirements for community-based sponsors that serve children during both the summer and after school during the school year;
  • Providing grants to sponsors for start-up and expansion costs and transportation of children in order to bring new sponsors into the program and allow existing sponsors to serve more children; and
  • Improving reimbursement rates so that schools, local government agencies, and private nonprofit organizations are able to operate the program without losing money and can provide healthier food.

The Summer Nutrition Programs, which include the Summer Food Service Program and the National School Lunch Program, should be filling the food gap for the tens of thousands of low-income Delaware children who rely on school breakfast and lunch during the school year to help keep hunger at bay. Through these programs, children, aged 18 and under, can receive free meals at participating summer sites at schools, parks, other public agencies, and nonprofits.

About the report: Data for Delaware came from an annual report released by the Food Research and Action Center (FRAC), a national anti-hunger advocacy and research group. The FRAC report, Hunger Doesn’t Take A Vacation, gives data for all states and looks at national trends. The report measures participation in the Summer Nutrition Programs by comparing the number of low-income children receiving summer meals to the number of low-income children receiving school lunch during the regular school year. FRAC measures national summer participation during the month of July, when typically all children are out of school throughout the month and lose access to school meals. The report is available online at www.frac.org.

To learn more about our Summer Feeding Program, please click here.

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Filed under Advocate, Children's Nutrition, Hunger, Poverty, Programs

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