On the 40th anniversary of USDA's summer meal programs, the Obama Administration has set a goal of serving 200 million meals to children and teens this summer - an increase of 13 million meals from last year. With school letting out for the summer, the Administration is making unprecedented investments in new tools and local capacity to better serve high-need rural families and communities.
Only 3.8 million children participate in USDA summer meal programs, but 21.7 million low-income children receive free or reduced-price lunch during the school year, the challenge is particularly great in rural areas and Indian Country, where 15 percent of households are food insecure but where children and teens often live longer distances from meal sites and lack access to public transportation. Rural poverty is both pervasive and persistent: A recent White House report found that 1.5 million children in rural areas live in poverty, and that over 85 percent of persistent poverty counties nationwide are located in rural America.
Since 2009, the Food and Nutrition Service (FNS) has conducted targeted outreach, forged partnerships, and invested in staff capacity to increase the number of meals served in rural and tribal areas. To continue this effort and achieve the goal of serving 200 million meals this summer, today the Administration is making the following announcements:
- FNS and the Corporation for National and Community Service are announcing new commitments to build local capacity to deliver summer meals. This summer, the AmeriCorps VISTA Summer Associate program will support nearly 60 AmeriCorps VISTA Summer Associates in rural and tribal areas, each of whom will support community outreach efforts, volunteer recruitment, in-kind donation development, and site support. Summer Associates will utilize Serve.gov/HelpEndHunger as part of the President's Call to Service and #ServeRural initiatives.
- The US Postal Service is leveraging its unparalleled reach in rural and tribal areas to support awareness and information about the Summer Meals program by providing information about the summer meal program in over 3,600 post offices in high-need counties across the country.
BUILDING ON PROGRESS
The Obama Administration has made tremendous progress increasing summer meals access and participation. In 2014, FNS delivered 23 million more summer meals than in 2009. In 2014, in the peak operating month of July, over 45,000 summer meal sites were available across the U.S., a 29 percent increase from 2009. Today's actions build on a series of steps the Administration is taking to enhance children's access to meals during the summer months in rural America, including:
The Administration has leveraged Federally-funded properties to expand the number of feeding sites-the greatest impediment to summer meals access in remote areas.
- USDA Rural Development has increased participation of its multifamily housing facilities in the summer meals program through staff training and targeted outreach. Compared to last year at this time, the percentage of multifamily housing facilities serving as feeding sites in rural and tribal areas has risen 233 percent.
- The Department of Housing and Urban Development has increased participation of low-income housing units as summer feeding sites through outreach from regional offices and in partnership with state public housing authorities. Compared to last year at this time, the percentage of HUD public housing units serving as summer feeding sites in rural and tribal areas has increased by 94 percent.
- The Department of Interior has collaborated with USDA and school administrators to expand Bureau of Indian Education (BIE) school participation in all FNS' food and nutrition programs. The number of summer meals sites at BIE schools has increased by 127 percent, compared to this time last year.
The Administration has partnered with nonprofits and the private sector to raise awareness, target outreach, and deliver meals in rural and urban areas. These partnerships include:
- Boys & Girls Clubs of America implemented new strategies to increase the number of meals and snacks served by its member organizations. This included working directly with State agencies to identify new summer feeding locations as well as to link existing sponsors with local Clubs. In the first year of this effort, Clubs reported a 5 percent increase in the number of meals served.
- Catholic Charities served 58,790 breakfasts, 252,701 lunches, and 750 suppers at 91 traditional sites, 57 mobile sites, and 42 special events, and led a social media campaign to raise awareness of summer meals.
- Last summer, 100 of Feeding America's member food banks served as SFSP sponsors, serving 5.7 million meals through SFSP. On average meals served by the network have grown 17% annually since 2011. For rural and other hard to reach communities, food banks have implemented mobile feeding and other innovative models to reach more children. Further, this summer 114 food banks are participating in Feeding America's 2015 summer feeding media campaign, done in conjunction with The Ad Council.
- Feed the Children, Oklahoma's primary summer sponsor last year, served approximately 195,000 meals with the help of public funds and private partners to children at 11 sites within several cities, rural communities and Indian Tribal Organizations across the state. This summer, building on the success of last year's pilot initiative, they will expand efforts to 58 sites throughout Oklahoma.
- The Food Research and Action Center provided technical assistance through monthly Summer Meals Matter calls and published Hunger Doesn't Take a Vacation, an annual report which analyzes summer meals participation trends, successes, and barriers, and provides tools for overcoming those barriers.
- Fuel Up to Play 60, through the National Dairy Council/GENYouth Foundation, has promoted summer meals through its local dairy councils and participation of student ambassadors and NFL players at summer kick-off events.
- PepsiCo's "Food for Good" initiative has utilized innovative food-sourcing and distribution strategies to support nonprofit sponsors with logistical expertise and assistance while delivering more than 4 million meals to low-income children since 2009. The program has quickly expanded to serve children in Dallas, Fort Worth, Austin, Houston, Detroit, Denver, Little Rock, Nashville, Oklahoma City, and the Chickasaw Nation.
- Share our Strength convened key stakeholders and partners around summer meals at its annual Summer Food Summit, geared towards building awareness and increasing the number of summer sponsors.
- YMCA of the USA served around 4.4 million healthy meals and snacks summer 2014 at 1,277 sites and piloted a new regional peer mentoring project where Ys with documented food program success and innovation offered targeted support and guidance to teams of Ys in order to strengthen Y efforts to end child hunger.
- FNS recently announced $16 million to continue and expand the Summer Electronic Benefit Transfer for Children (SEBTC) program, which provides additional SNAP or WIC benefits to low-income families with children during the summer months when school meals are not available. This summer, FNS will focus SEBTC expansion primarily in rural areas. The President's Budget proposes to increase the overall investment in SEBTC to $67 million in 2016.
In March, the USDA provided $27 million in grants to states and tribal nations to test innovative strategies for tackling child hunger, including in rural areas. The grants target areas and populations with elevated levels of food insecurity or gaps in nutrition assistance program coverage. An $8.8 million grant in Virginia will test the impact of providing more resources for low-income households to purchase food during the summer months.
In March, the White House Rural Council launched " Rural Impact," a coordinated effort across the federal government to improve quality of life and upward mobility for kids and families in rural and tribal communities. Rural Impact seeks to raise public awareness of rural poverty, modify existing programs to better serve rural families, and explore innovative models of service delivery to respond to specific challenges facing rural families and communities.
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