Missed Meals Missed Opportunities
Washington D.C. Remains First in the Nation for Reaching Children with Meals during the Summer Months but the Program Still Fails to Reach Thousands
For Immediate Release
Contact: Sara McGovern, Food Research and Action Center, email@example.com; 202-986-2200
Washington, D.C. – January 6, 2014 – The District of Columbia has ranked first in the nation for reaching low-income children with summer meals for eight consecutive years, but participation needs to grow to reach thousands of additional children and teens. According to a report released by D.C. Hunger Solutions and the DC Alliance of Youth Advocates, participation in the D.C. Free Summer Meals Program dropped from an average of 29,036 participants eating lunch each day in 2007 to an average of 21,514 in 2012. Participation decreased every year between 2007 and 2012, with the exception of 2010. Initial meal counts from summer 2013 show increases in total meal participation from summer 2012. However, the program falls short of reaching the nearly 56,000 District children who qualify for free and reduced price meals and lose access to school breakfasts and lunches during the summer.
Designed to fill the food gap when school is out, the D.C. Free Summer Meals Program seeks to combat hunger and contribute to better nutrition for children during the summer. Through this program, 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.
The report, Missed Meals, Missed Opportunities: An Analysis of the DC Free Summer Meals Program from 2007-2012 (pdf), analyzes data specific to the District from the annual “Hunger Doesn’t Take a Vacation” report released by the Food Research and Action Center (FRAC), a national anti-hunger advocacy and research group. FRAC’s annual report, which gives data for all states and looks at national trends, 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.
“It is encouraging that D.C. continues to lead the nation in the percentage of low-income children that have access to summer meals, but these declines are alarming,” said Alex Ashbrook, director of D.C. Hunger Solutions. “Looking forward, we must work together to ensure that D.C. Free Summer Meals reach all children at risk for experiencing hunger and help them get the nutrition they need to return to school ready to learn.”
Maggie Riden, Executive Director of the DC Alliance of Youth Advocates said, “ DC’s consistent success in maximizing participation in the DC Free Summer Meals Program is not to be underscored, this program has been a tremendous asset to our children, youth and families. The importance of this resource makes understanding what is working, and what isn’t working from a solutions oriented approach critically important. This analysis is one step in continuing the joint effort of providers, advocates, funders and policymakers with the information necessary to ensure all children at risk of hunger can benefit from DC Free Summer Meals.”
To increase participation in the D.C. Free Summer Meals Program, this report recommends that future strategies focus on building and maintaining the capacity of current and potential sites and sponsors through funding for programming, coordinated city-wide outreach, increased training, and targeted data collection.