Summer Nutrition Programs Need More Partners

melissa blogGeorgia summer nutrition programs served less than one in seven needy children in 2013, according to a new report released this week by the Food Research and Action Center. For the second year in a row, Georgia was one of five states to miss out on the most federal money and, as a result, fail to feed the most children.

Georgia served a smaller share of needy students through its food programs last summer than in 2012, the report shows. Efforts are already underway to reverse this trend for summer 2014 by enlisting the help of more partners.

The Summer Food Service Program and the National School Lunch Program (Seamless Summer Option) are two federal programs that aim to feed hungry children by replacing the school meals they miss when school is out. The meals also are used to attract children to educational and recreational programs that keep them engaged, active and productive during summer vacation months. About 13.6 percent of the roughly 845,000 children in the state who received free- or reduced-price lunch during the 2012-2013 school year also got free summer meals in 2013.

The summer feeding programs depend on schools, local governments, faith-based organizations, and other nonprofits to act as sponsors and use federal money to provide meals to eligible children. From July 2012 to July 2013, the number of Summer Food Service Program sponsors decreased by 4.4 percent, resulting in fewer meals served.

The state is partnering with Georgia’s food bank coalition to reverse the trend and feed more children this summer. The Department of Early Care and Learning is working with the Georgia Food Bank Association’s Feeding for a Promising Future – No Kid Hungry campaign to offer grant money organizations can spend on food preparation, equipment, storage and delivery of meals and snacks. The state is also partnering with the U.S. Department of Agriculture to provide food to children who live in apartment communities it helped fund.

Georgia’s children need these efforts to succeed. Many organizations can play a role in stemming the tide of summer hunger. In states across the country, logistics corporations help transport meals, foundations supplement program funding, and nonprofits like local hospitals and libraries sponsor summer food programs.

Organizations interested in joining the movement against child hunger should start making plans now to lend a hand next summer.

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