HUNGER DOESN'T TAKE A SUMMER VACATION
When schools close their doors for vacation next summer, over 12 million
poor children, who qualify to receive a free or reduced price lunch
during the academic year, will be deprived of this vital meal. The
implications for these children's health and well-being are significant.
For over two months, the vast majority of these children will not have
access to nutritious meals like the ones they receive during the school
We cannot accept this nutrition gap. Here at USDA, we can
encourage and inform many people about the benefits of the Summer Food
Service Program, but the decision whether or not to offer the program to
needy children will always be a local one. By working together to
provide these children with adequate nutrition during the summer we can
improve this situation significantly.
The Sobering Facts
The Child Nutrition Programs represent an effective and vital part of our
nation's nutrition safety net. During the school year, the
National School Lunch Program (NSLP) serves more than 18.5 million
low-income children free or reduced-price meals each day. However, once summer
vacation or the long vacations in year-round schools arrive, school
meals aren't available for most children.
In fact, only about 1.2 million children receive meals under the NSLP on
any given day during the summer. Some of these children are
participating in summer school, and some are on their regular track in
In addition, the Summer Food Service Program (SFSP) serves another 2.2
million lunches each day. That adds up to 3.4 million low-income
children who ate a nutritious meal on a given day last summer—fewer than
one in five of the children who receive free and reduced price school
meals during the regular school year!
These numbers are
especially alarming because the SFSP is specifically designed to be
operated in economically depressed areas where alternatives to school
lunches are not readily available or where many children cannot afford
We would like to see both programs increase participation, but it is
particularly important for the SFSP to become more accessible as the
number of schools providing summer classes or operating year-round is
more limited than the total number of schools potentially available for
The SFSP is intended to function as a nutrition link between
the end of one school year and the beginning of the next, and for more
than twenty-five years it has filled this role successfully in many
However, the SFSP is presently available in too few
locations, with the result that the number of poor children benefiting
from good, nutritious lunches under this program is unreasonably low.
Some children may not reside in eligible areas, but many do. To meet their
needs, we must have more school, faith, and community organizations to
provide them. We
are committed to caring for our children throughout the entire year,
whether or not school is in session. To make this commitment a reality, we
need more partners at the local level who will provide this important
benefit to their communities.
Our children need you.