Low-Income Children Missing Out on Summer Meals in Maryland
New Report from Maryland Hunger Solutions Details Participation in Every County
FOR IMMEDIATE RELEASE
Contact: Jennifer Adach, 202.986.2200 x3018
Baltimore, MD – June 26, 2012 – While the Summer Nutrition Programs are designed to fill the food gap during the summer months, a new report – Serving Maryland’s Children (pdf) – by Maryland Hunger Solutions (MDHS) finds that far too many children in Maryland continue to miss out on summer meals. For the second year in a row, participation in the Summer Nutrition Programs fell from the previous summer, reaching fewer than one in five low-income children.
To measure the reach of the Summer Nutrition Programs, Maryland Hunger Solutions compares the number of low-income children receiving summer meals to those receiving school lunches. According to this measure, only 19.6 low-income children in Maryland participated in the Summer Nutrition Programs in July 2011 for every 100 who relied on school lunches during the regular 2010-2011 school year. Participation varied widely across the state, from a high of 49.5:100 low-income children being served in Baltimore City to zero in Talbot County.
While the state’s participation rate fell, nine jurisdictions increased participation. Six experienced substantial double-digit growth (Anne Arundel, Calvert, Caroline, Frederick, Howard, and Washington) in the Summer Nutrition Programs. Many jurisdictions with increased participation rates benefited from strong community collaboration and/or committed public school systems.
“Many counties managed to increase participation, and they did that by making the Summer Nutrition Programs a priority,” said MDHS Director Cathy Demeroto. “Much of the success in these counties can be attributed to the strong commitment and involvement of the school systems, as well as the use of innovative strategies and community collaboration to overcome common barriers to participation during the summer. Quite simply, when communities are actively engaged and committed, fewer children go hungry during the summer months.”
Demeroto noted that the Governor’s Partnership to End Childhood Hunger in Maryland continues to play a major role in promoting the Summer Nutrition Programs statewide and in engaging local partners in their efforts, especially in Baltimore City. In 2011, the Partnership, which includes Maryland Hunger Solutions, was able to recruit new sites and reach more families in Baltimore City, resulting in a 1.9 percent increase in participation in the Summer Nutrition Programs.
Demeroto joined Montgomery County Public Schools today for a kick-off event at Rolling Terrace Elementary School to mark the start of its summer food program. Today’s event brought together leaders from the community, including Councilmember Valerie Ervin; Christopher Barclay, Vice President of the Montgomery County Board of Education; Dr. Joshua P. Starr, Superintendent of Montgomery County Public Schools; Bruce Schenkel, Nutrition Specialist for the Maryland State Department of Education; Principal Jennifer Connors; and parent Flor Yanez.
Earlier in the day, volunteers joined Maryland Hunger Solutions’ staff as they went door-to-door in neighborhoods surrounding walk-in sites in Montgomery County to raise awareness about the available free summer meals.
“Summer food programs are incredibly important for families in Maryland, especially families who are struggling to make ends meet. The benefits of this program are overwhelming. Combined with summer enrichment programming, summer meals enhance children’s development and make sure children return to school ready to learn,” said Demeroto. “It is incredibly important for counties to get the word out about this remarkable program.”
Low participation in the Summer Nutrition Programs not only means that fewer children in need are being reached, but also that even more available federal dollars are being left on the table. In July 2011, Maryland missed out on more than $3.5 million in federal funding by not reaching a goal of 40 low-income children receiving Summer Nutrition for every 100 participating in school.
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 who rely on school breakfast and lunch during the school year to receive adequate nutrition to learn and grow. Through these programs, children aged 18 and under can receive free meals at participating summer sites located at schools, parks, other public agencies, and nonprofits.
In Maryland, families can find nearby summer meal sites by calling 1-877-731-9300 or by visiting nokidhungrymd.org.
Maryland Hunger Solutions is the lead research, public education, and advocacy group in Maryland dedicated to using public programs to end hunger in Maryland. Maryland Hunger Solutions is an initiative of the Food Research and Action Center.