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Emily Pickren

WASHINGTON, June 13, 2018 — Far too many children lose access to nutritious school meals when the school year ends, according to Hunger Doesn’t Take a Vacation: Summer Nutrition Status Report, released today by the Food Research & Action Center.  The report finds that only 3 million children received a nutritious summer lunch on an average weekday in July 2017 through the Summer Nutrition Programs compared to the 20 million children who participated in free and reduced-price school lunch during the 2016–2017 school year. Even fewer children — 1.6 million — ate breakfast at a summer meals site in July 2017.

After four years of significant growth (2011–2015), last summer’s small drop of 14,000 fewer children participating in summer lunch programs further compounds the larger decrease in 2016 of 153,000, a 4.8 percent drop.

The report ranks all 50 states and the District of Columbia on participation in the Summer Nutrition Programs. Participation varied significantly by state, with the highest performer serving 47.9 children for every 100 low-income children receiving free and reduced-price school lunch, and the lowest performing state serving just 4.7 children for every 100 receiving free and reduced-price school lunch.

“It’s time to redouble efforts to ensure more low-income children have access to summer meals sites where they can eat healthy foods, learn, and play in a safe environment,” said Jim Weill, president, Food Research & Action Center.

Free summer meals are provided at local sites, such as schools, recreation centers, libraries, YMCAs, Boys & Girls Clubs, churches, and parks for children ages 18 and under. Not only do children stave off hunger as a result of summer meals, they also benefit from the activities offered at the vast majority of sites — activities that keep them engaged in educational, physical, and recreational activities, and better prepared to return to the classroom in the fall.

While most states mirrored the national trend of decreased participation from July 2016 to July 2017, 15 states increased participation in summer lunch, with two growing by 25 percent or more: Georgia (37.7 percent) and New Jersey (25 percent). This growth was largely a result of strong outreach efforts by state agencies and partner organizations.

If every state reached FRAC’s ambitious, but achievable, goal of reaching 40 children through the Summer Nutrition Programs for every 100 receiving free or reduced-price lunch during the 2016–2017 school year, an additional 5 million children would have been fed each day and states would have collected an additional $379 million in child nutrition funding in July alone (assuming the programs operated 20 weekdays).

About Hunger Doesn’t Take a Vacation: Summer Nutrition Status Report: This report measures participation in the Summer Nutrition Programs both in absolute numbers and by comparing the number of children receiving summer meals to the number of low-income children receiving school lunch during the regular school year. The regular school year is used as a benchmark because such a high proportion of low-income children eat school lunch on regular school days.

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The Food Research & Action Center is the leading national nonprofit organization working to eradicate poverty-related hunger and undernutrition in the United States.