Summer vacation is a time that most children look forward to, but summer can also mean something different for the children who rely on school in order to receive regular meals. Because of this, the summer break can be detrimental to low-income children.
According to the United States Department of Agriculture (USDA), Texas is one of the top thirteen states to receive intensive technical assistance to expand the reach of summer meal programs. This is because Texas is currently experiencing high levels of rural/urban food insecurity and reduced program participation. Over 23 million children rely on free and reduced-price meals provided by National School Lunch and School Breakfast Programs throughout the school year. However, only a small portion–3.8 million–participates in the USDA’s Summer Food Service Program. By creating the Summer Food Service Program, the USDA hopes to minimize this gap in order to ensure that children are receiving the meals they need.
Fortunately, there are various locations in the Austin community where eligible children and teens ages 18 and below can find facilities that can provide them with free meals while school is out of session. The Summer Meal Site Finder is a mapping tool provided by the USDA that shows local sites that provide meals through the Summer Food Service Program. Distance, days of operation, times and the types of meals being served are some of the details provided by the finder tool.
Every day parents, teachers and educational staff members worry for the children that do not have access to balanced meals while school is out of session. The No Kid Hungry Hunger in Our Schools 2015 Report produced the following key findings:
• 93% of educators are concerned about the long-term effects hunger could have on a child’s education
• 3 out of 4 public school teachers say students regularly come to school hungry
• 59% of educators say “a lot or most” of their children rely on school meals as their primary source of nutrition
Hunger can have long-lasting effects on a child’s school readiness, which can then hinder academic success and economic outcomes. If children do not receive the nutrition they need during the summer, this could also lead to serious development and health issues.
Many low-income families may not be aware that these summer meal programs exist. This is why it is important to promote these services in your community.
So let’s do our best to make this summer a hunger-free summer by promoting the Summer Food Service Program! The Summer Meal Site Finder is a good resource for families to use in order to guarantee that their children have access to nutritious meals during the summer, in order to help them thrive and go back to school ready to learn!