What happens in the summertime to children who receive free or reduced-price school meals during the school year? Nationally, parents report that family food expenses increase by more than $300 per month when kids are not in school. For many low-income families, there simply isn’t enough stretch in the family budget to accommodate the increase. Summertime hunger contributes to summer learning loss; students who’ve experience hunger in the summer struggle to keep up in the fall.
Seattle mom Dara Craven knows about summertime hunger firsthand. Dara, a Children’s Alliance member and child advocate, has struggled to provide healthy food for her two children during the summer months. Through a combination of growing a kitchen garden, using food banks and stretching her resources, Dara has managed to support her children. But she knows things can be better—that’s why she supports Senator Patty Murray’s Stop Child Summer Hunger Act, which would provide added resources for families with children during the summer months.
Congress established the Summer Food Service Program in the 1970s to fill the summer nutrition need. Meals provided to children in low-income areas by schools, cities, tribes or non-profits receive reimbursement from the U.S. Department of Agriculture.
Forty years later, the program still serves only 10 percent of low-income students who eat school lunch on an average school day. Barriers include the difficulty in finding eligible sites, long distances to sites in rural areas, parents’ fears about children crossing busy streets and, increasingly, the short duration of summer programs through school districts. Providing meals for two weeks during summer school doesn’t begin to address summertime hunger.
United States Senator Patty Murray introduced the Stop Child Summer Hunger Act last week. The bill creates a summer nutrition benefit for children eligible for free or reduced-price school meals. The benefit is delivered via an EBT card and can be spent on all food items eligible for purchase by the food stamp program.
Benefits are delivered either once at the beginning of the summer, or monthly. Sen. Murray’s proposal is based upon successful pilots of the concept that
found the $60 in added benefits each month translated to a 33 percent drop in childhood hunger for participating children.
The Children’s Alliance congratulates Senator Murray for taking a bold step toward ending childhood hunger in the summertime with the Stop Child Summer Hunger Bill. While some members of Congress have tried repeatedly to dismantle the anti-hunger infrastructure, Senator Murray is proposing a major renovation! She proposes funding the entire package by eliminating a tax loophole that encourages U.S. companies to shift jobs and profits offshore. Sen. Murray calls this a win-win, and we agree.
In the meantime, community organizations are gearing up for this summer’s site-based Summer Food Service Program. Families can enter their ZIP code in the Parenthelp123 Summer Meal Finder to locate sites in their neighborhood. You can also call the Family Food Hotline at 1-888-436-6392. Help spread the word about summer meals in your community!