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Program Design, Development, and Quality / Staff Leadership and Management

3 Ways Summer Meals Are Making A Difference

desks-summer nutrition programs

Summer is here!

For some families, summer plans involve which parks they’ll visit or vacations they’ll take. But for other families, summer can be a time of great stress as they find themselves struggling to fill the food gap that’s created when schools close and children no longer have access to healthy meals at school.

Fortunately, there is a solution: the Summer Nutrition Programs. These programs—the Summer Food Service Program (SFSP) and the National School Lunch Program (NSLP)—are designed to replace the school breakfasts and lunches on which low-income children and their families rely during the school year, keeping hunger at bay and ensuring that children remain healthy throughout the summer. They also support summer programs and help draw children into educational, enrichment, and recreational activities that keep them learning, engaged, active, and safe during school vacation.

The Summer Nutrition Programs are incredibly important but they aren’t reaching as many children as they should. Our most recent report – FRAC’s Hunger Doesn’t Take a Vacation – found that only one in six children who needed summer meals was receiving them.

Summer meals make a huge difference for children.

1. They fight hunger. Unfortunately, far too many children live in households that struggle with hunger and poverty. The latest U.S. Department of Agriculture data show that one in five children lived in households that struggled with hunger. Increasing participation in the Summer Nutrition Programs would lead to fewer hungry children.

2. They combat summer learning loss. The vast majority of summer meal sites offer educational and recreational activities, keeping children’s bodies and minds active during the summer months. In fact, the Summer Nutrition Programs often act as a magnet to draw children to these activities.

3. They support working parents. More than 24 million children live in working poor families. For their parents, the Summer Nutrition Programs provide a safe environment where children get healthy food and benefit from activities that keep them engaged while school is out. As a result, working parents know their children are safe and hunger-free – even when school is out.

The Food Research & Action Center has a number of resources to help you learn more about the Summer Nutrition Programs and how to develop quality programs that keep children well-fed and engaged. Its Meals Matter: Afterschool and Summer training calls and monthly newsletter provide valuable tips and best practices to achieve that goal. You can sign up here.

Author Profile: @crystalfitzsimons

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