Adequate meals in summer are essential to children’s health, learning retention
LINCOLN – Thousands of children in Nebraska are food insecure and struggle to get enough to eat in the summer months when they are out of school. Over the next several months, Summer Food Service Program sites across the state will do important work helping feed Nebraska kids, ensuring they will have the meals they need to stay healthy and be ready for classroom success again in the fall.
The Summer Food Service Program is a federally funded initiative that allows community organizations to provide meals free of cost to children in communities with demonstrated needs during summer months.
There are more than 350 sites across Nebraska operated by schools, churches, and community organizations that will provide free meals to children age 18 and younger, regardless of family income, to replace the important meals children receive during the school year.
The U.S. Department of Agriculture’s Food and Nutrition Service released this mapto find summer food sites in many Nebraska communities. You can also find the closest summer meals site by texting “FOOD” or “COMIDA” to 877-877 or call 2-1-1 for more information about programs in your area.
“Each year, summer food sites across Nebraska provide essential meals to children who might otherwise go hungry when they’re on summer break,” said Eric Savaiano, Nebraska Appleseed Economic Justice program associate. “Summer meals make sure children get the food they need to stay healthy, and the meals play an important role in reducing summer learning loss so our students don’t face an uphill climb when they return to the classroom in the fall.”
“Not only are summer food sites essential in fighting hunger in Nebraska, many locations supplement the meals with enrichment activities to encourage summer learning and ensure a safe place for youth throughout the summer months,” said Sarah Liewer, Nebraska campaign lead for No Kid Hungry.
This summer provides an opportunity to improve Nebraska’s summer food participation, which has lagged near the bottom of the country for the last several years. The most recent annual summer food status report from the Food Research and Action Center (FRAC), “Hunger Doesn’t Take A Vacation,” found Nebraska ranks second to last out of 50 states and the District of Columbia in summer food participation. Only Oklahoma had lower participation.
Currently, only 15 percent of children in the eligible communities offering Summer Food Service Program meals are using it according to the Nebraska Department of Education. This concerning data is evidence our state still has much more to do to fight hunger for the children who may not have access to the meals they need when out of school.
Organizations can learn more about starting or supporting summer food programs from the Nebraska Department of Education, and the USDA Food and Nutrition Service has a Summer Meals Toolkit to help organizations learn about supporting summer food participation at any level of program administration.
“We encourage more communities to look at opening a summer food site to make sure children in their neighborhoods aren’t facing hunger in the summer,” Savaiano said. “We must not allow our communities to be weakened by child hunger. By taking the proactive steps available through the Summer Food Service Program, we can make sure our kids are getting the meals they need to have a healthy and happy summer.”