FOR IMMEDIATE RELEASE
Contact: Jennifer Adach, 202.986.2200 x3018
July 8, 2009
Despite Uptick in Participation, Summer Nutrition Programs
Reaching Only One in Five of Maryland’s Low-Income Children
Download Hunger Doesn't Take a Vacation: Summer Nutrition Status Report (pdf).
Baltimore, Md. – July 8, 2009 – Maryland’s participation in the Summer Nutrition Programs increased in July 2008, with 21.7 percent of eligible low-income children in the state receiving summer meals, compared to 20.9 in 2007, according to Maryland Hunger Solutions. Data from a national report by the Food Research and Action Center (FRAC) found that participation grew from 42,843 Maryland children in July 2007 to 46,097 in July 2008. But, despite this significant growth, the programs still reach only one in five of the low-income children who rely on school meals during the school year.
“Maryland made it a goal to reach more children with summer food, and these findings show they have made some headway in reaching the thousands of children who should be getting summer meals,” said Kimberley Chin, director of Maryland Hunger Solutions, an initiative of FRAC. “Maryland must build on this momentum to reach even more eligible children.”
Hunger Doesn’t Take a Vacation is issued annually by FRAC to measure national and state trends in summer nutrition. FRAC measures the reach of the Summer Nutrition Programs by comparing the number of low-income children receiving summer food to the number of such children receiving school lunch. While Maryland’s participation rate is somewhat above the national average of 17.5 children receiving summer meals for every 100 eating lunch during the school year, the Maryland programs still fall short.
Low participation means that Maryland’s low-income children miss out on summer meals, and counties and nonprofits miss out on federal funds. Increasing participation in the Summer Nutrition Programs to at least 40 percent would result in an increase of nearly 39,000 low-income children in Maryland receiving healthy summer meals and an increase of more than $2.5 million dollars in federal reimbursements to the state for the month of July alone.
In a separate analysis, released in May 2009, Maryland Hunger Solutions measured each county’s participation in the Summer Nutrition Programs. In counties across the state, the rate of participation in the Summer Nutrition Programs during July 2008 varied widely. The analysis by Maryland Hunger Solutions found that:
- The highest rate of participation was in Baltimore City, with a rate of 55.2 low-income children participating in Summer Nutrition Programs for every 100 that ate lunch during the school year. The lowest was in Carroll County, which served zero children.
- Thirteen counties (Allegany, Baltimore, Calvert, Caroline, Carroll, Cecil, Charles, Dorchester, Frederick, Garrett, Howard, Queen Anne’s, and St. Mary’s) around the state served less than one-tenth of their low-income children.
- Only three counties – Montgomery, Somerset, and Worcester – were able to reach at least one-fifth of eligible low-income children. These top counties represent very different regions of the state – urban, suburban, and rural areas, showing that any county can perform better.
Participation in the Summer Nutrition Programs remains too low, but the coming Child Nutrition Reauthorization provides an opportunity for Congress to make significant new investments so that more low-income children have access to healthy food during summer vacation. In its national report, FRAC made the following recommendations:
- Improving the area eligibility test so more low-income neighborhoods and children can access the program;
- Increasing reimbursement rates and indexing them to inflation; and
- Providing start-up and expansion grants, as well as funding for transportation costs.
“Even in the best economic times, millions of families struggle to feed their children healthy, filling meals after schools close their doors for the summer. These are not good economic times, and the need for the Summer Nutrition Programs is greater than ever,” said Jim Weill, FRAC president. “But, the programs as structured now reach too few children and significant improvements can be made to expand their reach.”
The Summer Nutrition Programs, which include the Summer Food Service Program and the National School Lunch Program, fill the food gap for the thousands of low-income Maryland children (and their families) who rely on school breakfast and lunch during the school year to help keep hunger at bay. Through these programs, children, aged 18 and under, can receive free meals at participating summer sites at schools, parks departments and nonprofits. In Maryland, families can find nearby summer meal sites by calling the Summer Food Service Program Hotline at 1-877-731-9300 or by going online to www.mdsummermeals.org.
About the report:
Data for Maryland came from the annual summer food report released by the Food Research and Action Center (FRAC), a national anti-hunger advocacy and research group. The FRAC report, Hunger Doesn’t Take A Vacation, gives data for all states and looks at national trends. The report measures participation in the Summer Nutrition Programs by comparing the number of low-income children receiving summer meals to the number of low-income children receiving school lunch during the regular school year. FRAC 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.
Maryland Hunger Solutions’ (MDHS) analysis of county participation rates for the Summer Nutrition Programs is available at www.mdhungersolutions.org/pdf/mdhs_summerbrief.pdf. MDHS follows FRAC’s method of calculating participation rates, but MDHS’ calculations do not include Residential Child Care Institutes (RCCIs) and non-public schools.
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Maryland Hunger Solutions, an anti-hunger and nutrition organization, is dedicated to ending hunger in Maryland by raising awareness of the problem among the public, media, and policymakers, and changing policy and practice to connect struggling families to the School Breakfast Program and other federal nutrition programs. Maryland Hunger Solutions is an initiative of the Food Research and Action Center.