Washington D.C. Remains First in the Nation for Reaching Children with Meals
During the Summer Months but Participation Continues to Drop
Washington, D.C. – June 11, 2013 – The District of Columbia continues to rank first in the nation for reaching low-income children with summer meals, but participation in the Summer Nutrition Programs is continuing its fall from prior years. According to Hunger Doesn’t Take a Vacation (pdf), an annual analysis by the Food Research and Action Center (FRAC), only 59.8 children received summer meals in July 2012 for every 100 low-income students who received lunch in the 2011-2012 school year – a decrease from the 2011 ratio of 73.5:100 and the 2010 ratio of 80.2:100.
The District’s performance continued to be considerably higher than the national rate, which reached only one in seven low-income children. Still, the effects of the Recession continue to ripple through D.C. as reduced funding forced schools and community-based summer programs to close down or serve fewer children and teens during summer 2012. D.C. Libraries and community-based organizations tried to fill the gap by opening more sites to help provide healthy meals to children, but continued cuts in summer programming created a hole that could not be filled.
“D.C. continues to lead the nation in the percentage of low-income children that are reached with summer meals, but the declining participation numbers mean that thousands of children and teens are not getting the summer nutrition they need to stay healthy and help prevent summer learning loss,” said Alex Ashbrook, director of D.C. Hunger Solutions. “Children are paying the harsh price of missed meals. D.C. Hunger Solutions is committed to working with District leaders to address this gap and to help develop solutions for the city to ensure there are enough summer sites to reach more children and bring the numbers back up.”
To encourage more sites and sponsors to operate summer programs, D.C. Hunger Solutions is mounting a Summer Meal Outreach Campaign. Still, it will be necessary, notes Ashbrook, for city and community leaders across the city to look at the state of summer food and develop long-term solutions to ensure children don't go without food when school is out.
Designed to fill the food gap when school is out, the Summer Nutrition Programs fight hunger and contribute to better nutrition for children during the summer. State and community leaders also can follow the lead of the U.S. Department of Agriculture, which continues to prioritize participation in summer meals – from its annual Summer Food Awareness Week (June 10 to 15, 2013), to raising awareness of the program and its efforts to reduce administrative barriers to make it easier for sites and sponsors to participate. Such actions will move the programs in the right direction and should be continued.
The report measures participation in the Summer Nutrition Programs 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 Summer Nutrition Programs, which include the Summer Food Service Program and the National School Lunch Program, should be filling the food gap for the thousands of low-income children 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, D.C. Department of Parks and Recreation sites, libraries, and other community sites. In D.C. families can find nearby summer meal sites by:
- Texting 202.656.5EAT(328);
- Visiting www.dcfreesummermeals.org; or
- Calling 311.
About the report:
Data for Washington D.C. came from an annual report released by the Food Research and Action Center (FRAC), a national anti-hunger advocacy and research group. The FRAC report, Hunger Doesn’t Take A Vacation, gives data for all states and looks at national trends. FRAC measures national summer participation during the month of July, when typically all children are out of school throughout the month and lose access to school meals. The report is available online at www.frac.org.