May 13, 2009
Hunger Doesn’t Take a Vacation, but Maryland Children Missing Free Summer Meals
New Report Details County-by-County Participation in Summer Nutrition Programs in July 2008; Finds Only One in Five Eligible Low-Income Children Received Summer Meals
Baltimore, Md. – May 12, 2009 – Summer is in sight, but thousands of children across the state will lose access to healthy school meals as schools shut their doors. The Summer Nutrition Programs are designed to ensure that children have access to nutritious food when school is out, but a new report by Maryland Hunger Solutions - Summer Nutrition in the Counties (pdf) - finds that they reached only one out of every five eligible low-income children in Maryland last summer.
In counties across the state, the rate of participation in the Summer Nutrition Programs during July 2008 varied widely. The report found that:
- The highest rate was in Baltimore City, with a rate of 55.2 low-income children participating in Summer Nutrition Programs for every 100 that ate lunch during the school year. The lowest was in Carroll County, which served zero children.
- Thirteen counties (Allegany, Baltimore, Calvert, Caroline, Carroll, Cecil, Charles, Dorchester, Frederick, Garrett, Howard, Queen Anne’s, and St. Mary’s) around the state served less than one-tenth of their low-income children.
- Only three counties – Montgomery County, Somerset County, and Worcester County – were able to reach at least one-fifth of eligible low-income children. These top counties represent very different regions of the state – urban, suburban, and rural areas, showing that any county can perform better.
Low participation means that children miss out on summer meals, and counties miss out on federal funds. Increasing participation in the Summer Nutrition Programs from its current 21 percent to at least 40 percent would result in an additional 39,256 low-income children in Maryland receiving healthy summer meals and an increase of more than $2.5 million dollars in federal reimbursements to the state.
“As Marylanders struggle under the weight of this terrible recession, the Summer Nutrition Programs are even more important to ensure that low-income children don’t go hungry when school is out,” said Kimberley Chin, director of Maryland Hunger Solutions, an initiative of the Food Research and Action Center. “With more than half the counties in Maryland missing at least 90 percent of low-income children, there is significant room for improvement.”
The report outlines several recommendations for the state and counties, as well as steps Congress can take to improve access to the Summer Nutrition Programs, including:
- Urging the state to support the expansion of Summer Nutrition Programs so they cover the entire summer recess, as well as partnering with local organizations to conduct a broad and timely outreach campaign;
- Encouraging every school district should offer summer meals in all of its schools where 50 percent or more of the students are eligible for free or reduced-price meals; and
- Improving the programs through Child Nutrition Reauthorization by urging Congress to lower the area eligibility rate so more low-income children can access the program, increasing reimbursement rates, and providing more funds for outreach and transportation grants.
The Summer Nutrition Programs, which include the Summer Food Service Program and the National School Lunch Program, fill the food gap for the thousands of low-income Maryland children (and their families) 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 departments and nonprofits. In Maryland, families can find nearby summer meal sites by calling the Summer Food Service Program Hotline at 1-877-731-9300 or by going online to www.mdsummermeals.org.
About the report:
Because there is very broad participation in the National School Lunch Program, Maryland Hunger Solutions uses it as a benchmark against which to measure participation in the Summer Nutrition Programs. It compares the number of children receiving free and reduced-price lunch during the regular school year to the number of children receiving summer meals. Maryland Hunger Solutions uses data from July, which is the month that most summer programs in the state are fully operational.
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Maryland Hunger Solutions, an anti-hunger and nutrition organization, is dedicated to ending hunger in Maryland by raising awareness of the problem among the public, media, and policymakers, and changing policy and practice to connect struggling families to the School Breakfast Program and other federal nutrition programs. Maryland Hunger Solutions is an initiative of the Food Research and Action Center.