Build Momentum to Avoid Summer Feeding Stagnation

2016-06-17

Summer 2016 just starting, which means that summer feeding programs are starting to get in the swing of things. How is it going so far? Do you already have some sweet memories of a smiling child accepting her much-needed lunch? Or are you wondering what you can do to better promote the program this year? If you’re worried about plateauing numbers, then you’re not alone—according to the Food Research & Action Center’s (FRAC) recently released Hunger Doesn’t Take a Vacation report, summer nutrition programs nationally saw only a modest increase of just 11,000 participants from July 2014 to 2015.

These numbers come after three years of significant program growth. On an average day in July 2015, summer nutrition programs served lunch to nearly 3.2 million children across the country, equaling 15.8 low-income children participating for every 100 that receive a free or reduced-price lunch. This ratio fell notably short of the U.S. Department of Agriculture’s goal of 40:100.

One way to improve these numbers, according to the FRAC report, is through Child Nutrition Reauthorization legislation, currently in the works by Congress. In the legislation, a key proposal would streamline meal programs by allowing sponsors to provide food year-round, rather than in two separate programs during the school year and summer.

But you are also a key player in boosting participation. Of course, it’s too early to see how the numbers will translate to Summer 2016, but this is the time to build momentum. For smart strategies for closing the hunger gap and increasing participation in your summer meal program, read “Getting a Smart Start for Summer,” in the March 2015 issue of School Nutrition magazine.

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