Participation in the Summer Food Service Program continues to miss many low-income children in Utah, with only one in nine low-income children receiving summer meals in July 2013, according to a recently released report from the Food Research and Action Center.
Utah’s performance is below the national average of the number of kids accessing the Summer Food Program national rate, which reaches only one in seven eligible low-income children, according to Hunger Doesn’t Take a Vacation, an annual analysis by the Food Research and Action Center (FRAC). The FRAC report measures national and state trends in summer nutrition and compares states by determining for each the number of low-income children receiving summer food compared to the number of such children who receive regular school year lunch.
In 2013, participation in the Summer Food Program in Utah decreased by 8 percent from 2012, while that may be in part to an improving economy, Utahns Against Hunger noted that still far too few children benefited from summer meals. Utahns Against Hunger has increased its own efforts to get information to community partners and places where low-income families are receiving other services. Utahns Against Hunger is working to ensure that more low-income children will access nutritious summer meals at the approximately 200 sites throughout the state, and are working with more community partners to reach families who may need the extra help this summer.
“We can do better at reaching those families in need,” said Marti Woolford Outreach Coordinator and Child Nutrition Advocate at Utahns Against Hunger. “We are increasing our outreach efforts, for example we are running bus ads this year targeted at low-income communities in Salt Lake City and we are partnering with the Utah Food Bank and Salt Lake Community Action Program to bring activities to their supper sites. With these efforts we are confident that we will be reaching more families who need the help during the summer to make sure their kids aren’t going hungry,” said Woolford.
There are still areas of the state with no summer food sites where many kids experience increased hunger during the summer months. The Utah State Office of Education is always looking for more site sponsors. Any of the following entities can become a summer food site: a public or private nonprofit School Food Authority, a public or private nonprofit residential summer camp, a unit of local (municipal or county) government; or a private nonprofit organization that regularly serves the public.
While participation increased nationally, there is still room for improvement. Low participation means missed meals for children and missed dollars for the state. If Utah were to reach 40 children with summer food for every 100 low-income children who get free or reduced priced school lunch during the regular school year, an attainable goal, Utah would have fed 46,938 more children every day in July 2013 and would have brought in more than $3.5 million dollars in federal revenue.
Utah families can find nearby summer meal sites here http://www.uah.org/food-assistance/summer-food/ or by calling the Utahns Against Hunger at 1-800-453-3663 (FOOD).
For Washington and Iron counties go to http://www.uah.org/wp-content/uploads/2011/05/Washington-Iron6.pdf