Hunger Free Summer for Kids
Around the country, children are wrapping up the fun and freedom of summer vacation. However, although summer should be a time for kids to play outside and spend time with family, for too many children summer also has been a time of increased hunger. Low-income children who rely on school breakfast and lunch programs for nourishment during the school year are often left without enough to eat during the summer.
Congress has a unique opportunity to close the summer hunger gap when they rewrite child nutrition programs this year. The Houston Food Bank urges your support to make closing the summer hunger gap among our children a top priority for our congressional delegation. We encourage our Senators to support the Hunger Free Summer for Kids Act of 2015 and call on the Senate Agriculture Committee to include this legislation in this year’s Child Nutrition Reauthorization Act.
Here’s the background:
This summer the Houston Food Bank worked again alongside others to try to close the summer hunger gap by operating summer feeding programs in our community – and again we were only able to reach a fraction of kids in need. Across the nation only 18% of children who receive lunch assistance during the school year are able to access a summer feeding program. In Texas conditions are far worse; less than 12% (99,000) of our 2,534,835 low-income children who received lunch assistance during the school year accessed a feeding program in the summer.
Community providers could do much more to reach hungry children during the summer months with greater program flexibility. We need to continue observance of strong national nutrition and accountability standards among new program models that local communities may tailor to best meet their circumstances.
For example, program regulations dictate that we may only feed children if they consume a meal at the program site. Summer food program providers do their best to build sites in areas of concentrated need and, where possible, provide kids with a space not just to eat, but to play and learn. But they can’t open a site down the street from every needy family, particularly in sub-urban or rural Texas. Families may have to travel long distances to reach the nearest program, and the roundtrip fuel cost may outweigh the cost of the lunch their child receives. If a program is only open in the morning and mom works the early shift, her kids are out of luck if the site is beyond a safe walking distance from their home.
Noting that the summer meals program has a one-size–fits-all approach that does not work well for every community, and that eliminating hunger and malnourishment must be a national priority, Sen. Boozman (R-AR) and his bi-partisan team introduced The Hunger Free Summer for Kids Act in the Senate this month. Notably, in Arkansas, Boozman’s home state, 21% of children receiving lunch assistance had access to summer feeding programs – almost 10% more than in Texas. This legislative initiative would enable communities to do far more to protect Texas’ children from hunger through providing alternative delivery models for communities not eligible for the current summer feeding program or where children are unable to reach congregate feeding sites. Through two proven methods, tested by the U.S. Department of Agriculture and found to serve children in hard-to-reach communities, it would decrease child hunger and increase consumption of whole grains, fruits and vegetables, and dairy products.
Find out how you can help on our Advocacy page.