FOR IMMEDIATE RELEASE
Contact: Jen Adach, firstname.lastname@example.org, (202) 986-2200 x3018
Kimberley Chin, Maryland Hunger Solutions, email@example.com, (410) 528-0021
June 29, 2010
More Maryland Children Received Summer Meals in 2009, But Large Gap Still Remains Among Those Eligible
New Food Research and Action Center Report Provides State-by-State Look at Participation in Summer Meal Program
More low-income children in Maryland received summer meals as participation in the Summer Nutrition Programs increased by 17.4 percent from July 2008 to July 2009, according to a new report, Hunger Doesn’t Take a Vacation, by the Food Research and Action Center (FRAC). Despite the dramatic increase, the program still fails to reach many eligible low-income children, meaning missed meals for many of Maryland’s children and missed federal dollars for the state.
The number of children receiving summer meals in Maryland increased from 46,097 in 2008 to 54,115 in 2009. However, during the 2008-2009 regular school year, 223,245 Maryland low-income children received free or reduced-price school lunch, meaning that a large number of eligible children are going without needed food during the summer months when school is out. In other words, the Summer Nutrition Programs reached only 24 percent of low-income children who ate school lunch during the regular school year..
“While it’s good news that more Maryland children participated in the Summer Nutrition Program, it still doesn’t begin to touch the number of children who are eligible and depend on the meals programs during the school year,” said Kimberley Chin, director of Maryland Hunger Solutions. “In today’s economy, we know that families are relying more than ever on other safety-net programs, so it’s especially concerning that children who we know are in need are going without during the summer months.”
Organizations can provide summer meals through the Summer Food Service Program or the National School Lunch Program (FRAC describes them together as the Summer Nutrition Programs). Summer meals are offered at participating sites such as public and private schools, city or county-run children’s summer programs or programs held by nonprofit organizations such as the YMCA or the Boys and Girls Clubs, with federal funding provided to offset the costs.
Chin noted that participation in the Summer Food Service Program rose by 20 percent, while participation in the National School Lunch Program fell by 18 percent. She attributed much of the drop-off in NSLP participation to cut-backs in state funding for programs – like summer schools – that also provide meals.
“Despite the drop in summer school lunch, Maryland was able to increase participation in the Summer Food Service Program. This shows that there are inherent strengths in the program on which administrators and policymakers can build,” said Chin. “We applaud the many groups that prioritized their efforts to fill this important need.”
If the Summer Nutrition Programs in Maryland were to serve just 40 out of every 100 children who received free or reduced-price school meals during the regular school year, the state would receive an additional $2,422,680 in federal nutrition funding – and reach an additional 35,183 low-income children.
Congress is in the process of reauthorizing all of the child nutrition programs, including the Summer Nutrition Programs. Maryland Hunger Solutions joins FRAC in calling on Congress to expand the reach of the Summer Nutrition Programs by:
- 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 a 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
- Increasing 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.
“Increased funding for child nutrition programs would ensure that more low-income children have access to summer meals that stave off hunger, help reduce obesity, and draw children into educational and enrichment programs that keep them learning throughout the summer,” said Jim Weill, president of FRAC. “Congress must make these programs stronger so we can take a decisive step forward in meeting President Barack Obama’s goal of ending childhood hunger by 2015.”
Nationally, the Summer Nutrition Programs serve approximately only one in six of the low-income children who rely on school meals during the school year.
In Maryland, families can find nearby summer meal sites by visiting the Summer Food Service Program page on Maryland Hunger Solutions' website.
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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.