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MEDIA RELEASE: Fewer summer meal sites will serve WA kids this summer

(June 29, 2010) — About 700 schools, parks, community centers, apartment complexes, trailer parks and other sites will be providing summer meals to hungry children across Washington this summer, down from 723 last summer.

Availability of summer meals has been dropping in Washington and many other states for several years, according to a new report from the Food Research and Action Center (FRAC).  

Roughly 60,000 fewer meals were served to children last summer than in the summer of 2008. On an average day last July, slightly more than 33,000 children received a summer meal – only 11 percent of children who sat down for a free or reduced-price lunch during the school year.

These declines come at a bad time – as the recession is making it tougher for a growing number of families to make ends meet and provide their children with three balanced meals every day. Many children in low-income families rely on school breakfasts, lunches and snacks during the school year. Summer meals fill a critical nutrition gap for these kids.

"If we don't feed our children when they're hungriest, we're failing them when they need us most," said Linda Stone, senior food policy coordinator at the Children’s Alliance.

Improving and expanding summer meal programs is a critical part of the End Childhood Hunger Washington campaign, which the Children’s Alliance launched by uniting a broad cross-section of organizations, businesses and community groups around a simple achievable goal: surround children with nutritious food where they live, learn and play.

The largest drop in meal participation last year occurred in schools, according to FRAC’s report, which pulled data from USDA.  The recession has forced many districts to make budget cuts, scale back summer school and other programs that have traditionally served as summer meal sites.

Several school districts that provided meals last summer won’t offer any summer meals this summer, including Evergreen in Clark County; Warden and Moses Lake in Grant County; Tonasket in Okanogan County; White Pass and Boistford in Lewis County; Orondo in Douglas County and Meridian in Whatcom County.

There are also entire counties that will have no summer meal sites: Jefferson, Kittitas, Klickitat, Lincoln, San Juan, and Wahkiakum. These counties are home to 7,000 students in low-income families who qualify for free or reduced-price school meals.

There is good news: Some communities are stepping up to the challenge and working to feed more hungry children. Children in Clark County can access eight more summer meal sites this year than in 2009. Pierce County will have four more summer meal sites, and Benton, Skagit and Clallam counties will each have three more summer meal sites than in 2009.

There also are school districts that will be serving summer meals for the first time (or after a break of one or more years): Soap Lake in Grant County, Oakville in Grays Harbor County; Chehalis and Morton in Lewis County; Pateros in Okanogan County; Burlington-Edison in Skagit County; Snohomish in Snohomish County; Cheney in Spokane County; Mary Walker in Stevens County; North Thurston in Thurston County, and Nooksack Valley in Whatcom County.

Other new summer meal sponsors this year include: the Des Moines Area Food Bank, Love Inc., which will provide meals at the Mason Transit Community Center in Shelton; and the Boys and Girls Clubs of Benton and Franklin counties.

It appears that King County will have nearly 40 fewer sites than in 2009, primarily due to a drop in sites in the City of Seattle Summer Sack Lunch Program, and the Federal Way and Renton School District programs.  Additional sites can still be added, however.

Families can find nearby summer meal sites by visiting: http://www.parenthelp123.org/resources/food-resources/summer-meals\ or by calling 1-888-4-FOOD-WA (1-888-436-6392).  

The summer meals hotline is staffed by both English and Spanish speakers and translation services are available for over 170 languages.   

To apply for other benefits visit: http://www.parenthelp123.org/benefit-finder

Note: 2010 data used for this report was provided by the Office of the Superintendent of Public Instruction; site and sponsor information is current as of June 25, 2010.

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CONTACT:
Linda Stone, Senior Food Policy Coordinator, (509) 747-7205;
cell: (509) 844-1314, linda@childrensalliance.org

The Children’s Alliance is a public policy advocacy organization that works at the state and federal level to ensure that all children have what they need to thrive, especially our most vulnerable children, who are disproportionately those in low-income families and communities of color. Current campaigns focus on health care, early learning, ending childhood hunger, and foster care. Our membership includes 125 organizations and more than 10,000 individuals statewide. To learn more about the Children’s Alliance, go to www.childrensalliance.org. To sign up for our media list, e-mail Liz Gillespie at liz@childrensalliance.org.

The Food Research and Action Center (FRAC) is the leading national nonprofit organization working to improve public policies and public-private partnerships to eradicate hunger and undernutrition in the United States. FRAC works with hundreds of national, state and local nonprofit organizations, public agencies, and corporations to address hunger and its root cause, poverty. http://frac.org/index.html