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Program Design, Development, and Quality

Summer Nutrition Programs: Ending Childhood Hunger

ending childhood hunger

Ending childhood hunger, especially during the summer, has been the defining focus of my work for the past few years.

At the Food Research and Action Center (FRAC), I’ve worked with my team to chart participation in 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.

It has been remarkable to see the strides that have been made over the past few years, and the increase in the number of low-income children eating summer meals. That’s particularly good news since summer nutrition is so critical to children’s achievement, especially when meals are coupled with enrichment and learning activities. Children who participate in such summer programs reap countless benefits: they stay free from hunger, stay healthy, and stay engaged.

Unfortunately, research shows us that when children are not involved in such activities they are likely to experience summer learning loss and are more likely to gain weight.

While there has been positive movement with summer meals, there still is a long way to go. FRAC’s most recent look at summer food participation – FRAC’s Hunger Doesn’t Take a Vacation – found that only one in six children who needed summer meals received them.

But we can keep the momentum going.

  • Groups who are operating summer programs should consider serving meals if they aren’t already. FRAC has a calendar that lists opportunities throughout the year.
  • Groups who are already serving meals should consider expanding their operations, perhaps by adding more sites or by increasing the quality of food being served.
  • Groups should also strongly consider offering enrichment activities to complement their current program.

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, including a calendar that lists year-round actions for organizations seeking to strengthen their summer programs. In addition, FRAC’s 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

Photo Credit: Flickr

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