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child hunger

New Web Application Helps Families Find Summer Meals in Their Communities

USDA’s Summer Food Service Program, a federally-funded, state-administered program, last year served more than 187 million meals to children in low-income areas to ensure that they continued to receive proper nutrition throughout the summer when schools were closed. But that number represents just a small fraction of the children who are eligible to receive summer meals. Many families may not have taken advantage of the program because they didn’t know where meals were served near them.

That’s why this summer we here at USDA’s Food and Nutrition Service recently launched the Summer Meal Site Finder, a new web and mobile tool that allows parents, teens and children in all 50 states, as well as Puerto Rico and the Virgin Islands, to type in their address, city, state or zip code to get a list of the summer meal sites closest to them.  The tool also provides information about each of the 45,000 sites already registered for this summer, including their operating hours, contact information, and directions to each site.

Healthy Kids Need Healthy Food: USDA Nutrition Programs Help Children and Families Grow & Thrive

USDA nutrition programs help families gain access to safe, nutritious food. Still many families with children don’t have the security of knowing they will be able to feed their family tomorrow.  Further, many families often rely on cheaper, less healthy foods because of financial constraints and transportation issues. USDA is working to address the intertwined challenges of hunger, malnutrition, and childhood obesity through several initiatives, including the newly announced Child Hunger Demonstration Projects and increased efforts in USDA Summer Meals Programs.

Summer Meals: Its Success Depends on All of Us

Every day, millions of students are able to enjoy a nutritionally balanced, low-cost or free lunch thanks to the National School Lunch Program. Everyday they’re in school, that is. But what happens to these children when school lets out during the summer? That’s when vital programs offered by USDA’s Food and Nutrition Service come into play. The summer meals program defends against hunger – ensuring that millions of the most vulnerable Americans have the energy they need to perform at work and school by receiving a healthy meal or snack when school meals are not available. Those meals are served at a variety of community centers throughout the country.

In the summer of 2014, USDA set a goal of serving 10 more million meals than in the summer of 2013 through the two programs that comprise USDA’s summer meal programs: USDA’s Summer Food Service Program and the National School Lunch Program's Seamless Summer Option. With the help of partners, elected officials, and community leaders across the country, the goal was exceeded. We now want to build on that momentum. We’ve set new goals and need your help.

Summer Meals: Serving Chicago's Many Neighborhoods

At USDA, we value the work of the many partners who administer and support our diverse and far-reaching nutrition assistance programs.  In my hometown of Chicago, an inspiring group has been meeting year-after-year to ensure that child hunger in the metropolitan area and beyond is eliminated. In this post, Illinois Hunger Coalition’s Diane Doherty explains the important work this group performs.

By Diane Doherty, Executive Director, Illinois Hunger Coalition

On a perfect summer day in June, the Illinois Hunger Coalition joined the USDA Food and Nutrition Service, Catholic Charities of Chicago, the Illinois State Board of Education and other members of the Chicago Summer Food Work Group for its annual summer meals kick-off event. The event, which is part of the work group’s efforts to raise awareness and increase participation in the summer meal programs, was held this year at Armour Square Park on Chicago’s South Side.

USDA Tribal Collaboration Strengthens Food Security on Nevada's Indian Reservations

Today in Nevada more than one in four children (28 percent) live in households that cannot reliably provide nutritious meals every day.  This dubious distinction makes it the state with the nation’s fourth highest rate of child hunger.  And for children living on Indian reservations, the incidence of hunger may be even higher.

What does food insecurity look like on Nevada reservations?  With few places to shop, reservation residents have very limited access to fresh produce.  Food insecurity not only equates to a lack of nutritious foods available, but also means families must drive great distances to a grocery store.  To cope, families choose more canned and frozen foods that will last until the next weekly or monthly shopping trip, which often means less consumption of fresh fruits and vegetables.

Where Do Kids Eat When School is out in Summer? FNS Partners with the Department of Education to Find Solutions

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.

Philadelphia Fights Hunger Through Academic, Faith and Community Partnerships

The City of Brotherly Love puts its motto into practice. I saw this firsthand when I travelled to Philadelphia to meet with a network of community leaders who partner with USDA through its Summer Food Service Program. With this program, USDA subsidizes nutritious summer lunches for students who need them and works with community partners to deliver those meals.

In Philadelphia, about 22% of children live in households that have trouble putting enough food on the table for every member of the family. That means when school is out, and school meals are not available, many kids are vulnerable. The Summer Food Service Program plays a critical role in making sure kids have access to nutritious meals so that they can begin the school year well nourished and alert.  My friend and former director of the White House’s Office of Faith Based and Community Initiatives during the George W. Bush Administration, Professor John DiIulio, invited me to Philadelphia where he currently works at the University of Pennsylvania’s Fox Leadership Program.

Historically Black Colleges and Universities Help Feed Kids During the Summer

Although about 21 million children nationwide receive free and reduced-priced meals through our National School Lunch Program, only about 3.5 million meals are served through the Summer Food Service Program (SFSP) on a typical day. Closing this gap and ensuring that disadvantaged children do not go hungry during the summer months is a goal that USDA can only achieve through work with our partners.

One of the ways we’re strengthening partnerships is through our StrikeForce Initiative which helps us target state partners to work with across the country including universities and colleges. A great example of this initiative at work is the Alabama Department of Education teaming up with Tuskegee University, a Historically Black University in Alabama, which now sponsors four community-based summer feeding sites in Macon County where disadvantaged kids can get a free and nutritious summer meal.

StrikeForce Partnership Fighting Hunger in Virginia

USDA in Virginia is forging partnerships this summer to ensure that low-income children continue to receive nutritious meals when school is not in session. Under the Food and Nutrition Service (FNS) based program, free, nutritious meals are provided to all kids 18 years old and under at approved sites in areas with significant concentrations of low-income children.

The Food and Nutrition Service’s Summer Food Service Program has found an ally in its fight against childhood hunger with its partnership with USDA Rural Development Multi Family Housing Program to help get the word out about the problem of summer nutrition. With over 270 Multi Family complexes located across Virginia, some of which are in persistent poverty counties, this relationship has the potential to benefit many children statewide.  Over 30 kids enjoyed a healthy and nutritious meal at the Sandston Woods Multi Family Housing Apartment Complex on June 25th to kick off the program.

National SFSP Kick-Off Takes Place in the District of Columbia

Last week Washington DC held a great kickoff event for the summer food service program (SFSP) and I was happy to join in. SFSP is a critical program that keeps kids from going hungry during the summer months and the District is the best out of all the 50 states and territories at getting disadvantaged children enrolled. SFSP is particularly important in the capital because one in eight households face food insecurity and, as a result, may not always get enough food to eat during a day.