As we approach the summer season, USDA is vigorously preparing to fill the nutrition gap faced by millions of kids across the country. While 21 million of our sons and daughters receive free and reduced-priced lunches during the school year, only a small percentage participate in the summer meals programs, leaving too many of our most vulnerable without a nutritious meal.
A new partnership between the USDA and the Department of Education seeks to transform these alarming rates of food insecurity for the better. Last week I had the pleasure of convening with Dr. Jonathan Brice, Deputy Assistant Secretary in the Office of Elementary and Secondary Education in the Department of Education. This meeting was the first of the current administration, solidifying the strong partnership in summer meals and placing an emphasis on school participation.
Dr. Brice explained that “the Department of Education believes that summer meals are critical to the success of millions of children across the country.” As a former administrator and teacher in public schools throughout Delaware and Maryland, Brice conveyed the effectiveness of the summer meals program for summer school students, athletically involved youth, and kids of all backgrounds. He emphasized that the Department of Education viewed summer meals as “a critical opportunity for communities to come together and show children how much they matter.” I couldn’t agree more with his sentiments.
Our partnership is groundbreaking on many levels. To alleviate the burden of hunger in the summer, we need the support of principals, educators, food service professionals, and community members to promote a program that focuses on the nutritional wellbeing of kids in our communities. With program participation growing in schools nationwide, and now the official backing of the Department of Education, the future of increasing summer meals participants and decreasing food security in America looks more promising than ever.
Echoing the sentiments of Dr. Brice, our children need to be well-fed and provided with nutritious meals in order to become successful adults. The more we learn to cultivate unique and effective partnerships, the more effective we will be at ending child hunger in this country. Collaborating with the Department of Education is a step in the right direction to ensure more children have access to healthy foods when school is out.