MILWAUKEE, May 29, 2015 – Today Agriculture Secretary Tom Vilsack joined representatives from Milwaukee's Hunger Task Force, the Kohl's Corporation, and members of the Milwaukee community to bring attention to childhood hunger. The U.S. Department of Agriculture's (USDA) summer meal programs provide breakfast and lunch to children in low-income communities all across the country. The event today marked the start of this program and Kohl's Serving Up Supper for Kids, a joint effort between the Hunger Task Force and the Kohl's Corporation to provide nutritious suppers to Milwaukee children in need throughout the summer.
"For 40 years, USDA has supported summer meal programs that keep children in low-income communities active and engaged when school is out, while providing critical nutrition and reducing the learning loss that often occurs during the summer months," said Secretary Vilsack. "Programs like these in Milwaukee allow communities to take the lead role in preventing hunger and focus their efforts in local areas with the greatest need. Over the long haul, this program can result in children performing better in school, which in turn can put them in a better position to be competitive in the global workplace."
During the school year, more than 21 million children rely on free and reduced priced meals provided by the National School Lunch and School Breakfast Programs, but only 3.8 million participate in USDA's summer meal programs: the Summer Food Service Program (SFSP) and the National School Lunch Program's Seamless Summer Option. These programs work in concert to close this gap by ensuring children have access to safe, healthy meals when school lets out. This helps children stay healthy and be ready to learn when they return to school in the fall.
Last year, the summer meal programs enjoyed a historic increase of 11 million more meals served compared to the previous summer, serving a total of more than 187 million meals at over 50,000 summer meal sites throughout the country. This year, on the 40th anniversary of the program, USDA hopes to serve an additional 13 million meals to meet our challenge of serving 200 million meals to children nationwide.
Next week, USDA Food, Nutrition, and Consumer Services Under Secretary Kevin Concannon will be visiting Ranson Elementary School in West Virginia for its official kick-off event as part of National Summer Meals Kick-Off Week. Concannon will present State Senator John Unger with the Summer Champion Award for his work championing food security.
West Virginia is one of 13 states that are receiving intensive technical assistance to expand the reach of the summer meal programs. These states were chosen because they have high levels of rural and urban food insecurity and/or reduced program participation. The other states include: Alabama, Illinois, Mississippi, Missouri, Nevada, Texas, Arizona, Kansas, Michigan, Oklahoma, Pennsylvania, and Kentucky.
"We are deeply committed to ensuring that all Americans, in rural and urban areas, have access to a healthy diet whether at home or at school," said Under Secretary Concannon. "These public-private partnerships are key to galvanizing interest in combating hunger. We need more community partners to serve as sponsors or to help run sites where young people can easily go for a healthy meal or snack, as well as for physical and enrichment activities."
The USDA's Food and Nutrition Service oversees the administration of 15 nutrition assistance programs, including the Summer Food Service Program and other child nutrition programs, that touch the lives of one in four Americans over the course of a year. These programs work in concert to form a national safety net against hunger.