18 Million Children Lose Access to School Meals This Summer

Feeding America Food Banks Prepare for Increased Need

June 3, 2016
by Ross Fraser

As the school year comes to a close, more than 18 million children will lose access to free and reduced-price meals they depend on for nourishment. Families with already overextended budgets are forced to make up for lost school meals, which Feeding America food banks across the country experience as an increased need for food assistance to support children and their families who live on the brink of hunger during the summer.

Feeding America’s recently released study, Map the Meal Gap 2016, found that food-insecurity rates among households with children are substantially higher than those found in the general population. According to the study, county-level child food-insecurity rates across the nation ranged from a high of 42 percent to a low of eight percent. The U.S. county with the highest rate of child hunger is Apache County, Arizona. The state with the lowest rate of child hunger is North Dakota, yet more than 19,000 children who live there experience food insecurity.

“Tragically, no city, county or community is free of child hunger,” said Diana Aviv, CEO of Feeding America. “The impact of food insecurity on children has been well documented.  A child who is inadequately nourished is at high risk of experiencing poor health, and cognitive and physical impairments, leading to difficulties in school and later in life. During the summer months, children should be hungry for play and learning and not for food.”

Of the 22 million children who receive free or reduced-price school meals during the school year, five out of six will not be able to access meal programs during the summer due to a number of barriers. Lack of school buses to transport children to and from summer feeding sites can be extremely challenging. Children may have to travel long distances to a summer meal site or need to cross busy streets or unsafe areas. For millions of vulnerable children summer is a time of hunger and worry.  

The Feeding America network of food banks feeds 12 million children each year, more children than any other non-profit organization in the country. Last year, 127 Feeding America food banks helped distribute almost 9.5 million meals to children at nearly 5,000 sites. Here are some of the efforts taking place throughout the country this summer:

  • The Second Harvest Food Bank of Central Florida in Orlando will provide meals at more than 90 locations, including several summer camps that provide meals to more than 1,100 homeless children five days a week.
  • The Food Bank of South Jersey in Pennsauken plans to serve 205,000 meals to children through 80 sites.
  • The Vermont Foodbank’s VeggieVanGo produce truck will deliver free, fresh produce to families at government housing developments, school parking lots and health clinics.

In addition to summer feeding programs, Feeding America advocates for strong public policies to address child hunger and to close the summer meal gap. This year Congress has an opportunity to make meaningful progress toward ending child hunger by passing a strong, bipartisan Child Nutrition Reauthorization that ensures vulnerable children get the nutrition they need all year to grow, thrive and achieve their potential.

“While Congress has made important steps to improve the summer meals program, it’s critical that they prioritize sending a strong reauthorization bill to the President’s desk this year,” Aviv said. “The Senate’s bill made important investments to close the summer meal gap and passed out of committee with unanimous, bipartisan support. A final bill must ensure that we move forward, not backward, and should reject any proposals that would harm children’s access to school meals such as a block grant pilot.”

Feeding America encourages everyone to donate, advocate and volunteer to address child hunger in the United States. To find your local food bank and learn more about summer hunger go to feedingamerica.org/summerhunger.


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