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Maryland Summer Meal Participation Drops in 2010, but State Redoubles Efforts in Summer 2011 to Reverse Course
Baltimore City Driving State’s Overall Participation Rate
Baltimore, Md. – August 3, 2011 – A new report (pdf) from Maryland Hunger Solutions finds that Maryland reached fewer low-income children with summer meals in summer 2010, seeing participation fall from 51,866 children per day in July 2009 to 49,196 in July 2010. Since 2009 participation was itself too low, the further decline was deeply troubling.
“Code Red” days that closed sites during extreme heat, a drop in the number of sponsors who support Summer Nutrition Programs, and limited growth in the number of sites that serve meals were among the chief contributors to the decline, according to the report.
To measure the reach of the Summer Nutrition Programs to those in need, Maryland Hunger Solutions compares the number of low-income children receiving summer meals to those receiving school lunches during the regular school year. According to this measure, only 20.6 low-income children in Maryland participated in the Summer Nutrition Programs in July 2010 for every 100 who relied on school lunches during the regular 2009-2010 school year.
Participation varied widely across the state, from a high of 47.4:100 low-income children being served in Baltimore City to zero in Carroll County. Ten counties around the state served fewer than one in ten of their low-income children.
Baltimore City had an outsized impact on Maryland’s overall participation rate. Nationally, Maryland ranks in the top ten states for reaching the most children with summer meals in 2010 with a ratio of 20.6:100. Removing Baltimore City from the calculation lowers the ratio of low-income children served in the summer to 11.7:100 and drops the state’s national ranking to 37th.
While Baltimore City is the only jurisdiction in Maryland that achieved and surpassed the goal, set by Maryland Hunger Solutions, of serving summer meals to more than 40 low-income children for every 100 receiving school lunch, it also experienced, however, a drop in participation from 2009 to 2010. Its decrease was greater than the total statewide decrease—3,233 children per day in Baltimore City compared to 2,670 in Maryland. While 14 counties increased participation, their gains were not enough to offset the losses in Baltimore City.
Last summer’s extreme weather contributed to the decrease in participation in the Summer Nutrition Programs. Baltimore City had five heat-related “Code Red” days that closed many sites, and, based on average daily participation, could have resulted in an estimated 100,000 fewer meals served in July. In Montgomery County, five days of closures due to severe weather could have decreased the number of meals served in the county by as many as 35,000.
“The fact that participation in the Summer Nutrition Programs dropped means that too many children are falling into a summer hunger gap. All jurisdictions across the state need to do a better job in reaching low-income children with summer meals, especially when the need is so great,” said Cathy Demeroto, Director of Maryland Hunger Solutions. “But there’s a strong effort from the state that’s under way this summer to close that gap and ensure that more low-income children receive summer meals.”
Recruiting more sites and sponsors has been a top priority for Maryland this summer. According to the report, the number of sponsors dropped from 55 in 2009 to 51 in 2010, while the number of sites increased from 1,113 to 1,176 sites. This summer, preliminary July numbers from Maryland State Department of Education show an increase of more than 200 additional sites, a promising sign.
Outreach also remains a top priority. As part of the Governor’s Partnership to End Childhood Hunger, Maryland Hunger Solutions is working to increase participation in summer meals in Maryland, with a focus on Baltimore City. This includes a partnership with Antonio Freeman, former NFL star and Baltimore native, to bring his Charm City Literacy Challenge to several summer meal sites this summer, and a partnership with The Family League of Baltimore City to launch a mobile meals project that serves hot lunches at three church sites in high need areas of Baltimore City. Maryland Hunger Solutions’ work to strengthen the Summer Nutrition Programs is supported in part by the Walmart Foundation and Share Our Strength.
“With an increase in the number of sites and redoubled outreach efforts, we’re hopeful that this summer will also see an increase of the number of children eating summer meals,” said Demeroto. “There’s been a lot of leadership across the state to make summer a priority, and a lot of groundwork laid to make even more improvements for next summer.”
The Summer Nutrition Programs, which include the Summer Food Service Program and the National School Lunch Program, fill the food gap for the tens of thousands of low-income Maryland children who rely on school breakfast and lunch during the school year to receive adequate nutrition to learn and grow. Through these programs, children, aged 18 and under, can receive free meals at participating summer sites located at schools, parks, other public agencies, and nonprofits.
In Maryland, families can find nearby summer meal sites by calling 1-877-731-9300 or by visiting www.nokidhungrymd.org.