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Report on Summer Hunger in Washington

by School's Out Washington | | Posted under Afterschool and Summer News

by Linda Stone, Children’s Alliance

The US Department of Agriculture recently released data on food security and hunger across the country.  Here in Washington, 6.2% of households experience hunger.  One in four children lives in families that struggle with having enough food on a regular basis.  Even intermittent hunger results in increased illness and school absences, and alternately makes kids lethargic or aggressive.  We can do better for our kids.

Ask low-income parents when it’s hardest to insure that kids have adequate food and they’ll tell you that it’s the summertime when free and reduced-price school breakfast and lunch are not available. The Summer Food Service Program was created by Congress to respond to this need.

Here in Washington, over 160 organizations provided summer meals at more than 800 “open” meal sites in 2012.  An “open” site means any child can attend; there is no sign-up or eligibility test.  These sites must be in areas where more than half the school kids qualify for free or reduced-price school meals.

The Summer Meals Work Group, convened by the Children’s Alliance, and including School’s Out Washington and the Office of the Superintendent of Public Instruction, focused on recruiting community-based organizations with a commitment to feeding kids all summer long.  Here’s a report from St. Leo’s Food Connection in Tacoma –

Our summer meals program saw tremendous growth this year.  On weekdays throughout the summer we served lunch and a snack to more than 700 children throughout Pierce and Skagit Counties. In all we served 32,631 lunches and 29,636 snacks; this represents an 87% increase over 2011.

In King County, AmeriCorps members working for United Way of King County connected with community groups to recruit sites for the City of Seattle Summer Sack Lunch Program as well as for other summer meal programs in South County.  As a result, 31 more sites were open this summer throughout the county!

The 1095 Club in Skagit County, a group dedicated to ending childhood hunger, helped Mt. Vernon School District start a summer meals site at Neighborhood Station in the Kulshan area where a janitor helped reach out to local families and the school district provided meals to more than 100 kids each day.  The school district plans to add another community site next year.

Kids who participate in summer education, enrichment and activities programs start the next school year ready to learn.  To quote Boistfort School District in Lewis County: “I strongly believe that students who are able to attend a summer enrichment program, maintain their skills and start the new school year off in a better place than their peers who have not attended a program.”   The addition of a meal keeps kids well-nourished and ready to learn.

To join the effort to provide summer meals, check out the nifty summer meals webpage at Parent Help 123.

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