Tuesday, June 29, 2010

Connecticut Reaching Only 25% of Low-Income Children with Summer Nutrition Programs

End Hunger Connecticut! calls on local, state and national officials to act to meet critical need. Dawn Crayco, Child Nutrition Program Director, EHC!
[Hartford, CT] – June 29, 2010 – As the national recession left families reeling, only 35,000 low-income children participated daily in the Summer Nutrition Programs in Connecticut in July 2009, according to End Hunger Connecticut!. This compared to the 137,000 low-income children who received school lunches during the regular school year – the vast majority of whom needed summer meals.
The gap is one clear measure of the depth of summer hunger in Connecticut. It is a measure as well of how the state is failing to draw down available federal funds. If the state were to reach just 40 children with summer food for every 100 low-income children who get school lunch during the regular school year, a goal some other states reach, Connecticut would have fed almost 20,000 more children every day in July 2009 and brought in $1.35 million more federal dollars to do so.
Connecticut’s performance was better than the rate for the nation as a whole. Nationally, only one in six eligible low-income children got summer meals, according to Hunger Doesn’t Take a Vacation, an annual analysis by the Food Research and Action Center (FRAC). The 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. The report also honored Connecticut Summer Food sponsor, Thompson Ecumenical Empowerment Group (TEEG) with “silver” award status for FRAC’s Summer Food Standards of Excellence.
Compared to the previous July, participation in Connecticut increased by 6% percent in July 2009. End Hunger CT! attributed this to their small grants program “Operation Participation” and significant collaborative outreach efforts with the CT State Department of Education and many state and local organizations. In End Hunger CT! noted that while the program responded somewhat to the rising need, still far too few children benefited from summer meals. “We’re pleased to see that more low-income children received summer meals, but participation is still too low. In the summer, Connecticut reaches only 25 children for every 100 reached during the regular school year.
Connecticut must do a better job in reaching more needy children,” said Executive Director of End Hunger CT!, Lucy Nolan. “The Summer Nutrition Programs are not working as well as they should. No child should go hungry. In recognition of the increased need, state legislation passed last year to put state outreach funds into child nutrition programs to increase program access and awareness to maximize federal funding. We urge our state and local officials to continue to make this a priority, and we urge our Congressional leaders to take this message to Washington.”

Congress is currently working on reauthorizing all of the federal child nutrition programs, including the Summer Nutrition Programs, and key leaders have proposed a significant increase in funding. End Hunger CT! joined FRAC in calling for Congress to invest new dollars into expanding the reach of the Summer Nutrition Programs. In its national report, FRAC made the following recommendations:

• Improving the program’s too-narrow area eligibility test so that children from low-income families in a broader range of poor communities are able to participate;

• Expanding to all states the Year-Round Summer Food Pilot, currently only in effect in California, which reduces paperwork and eases administrative requirements for community-based sponsors that serve children during both the summer and after school during the school year;

• Providing grants to sponsors for start-up and expansion costs and transportation of children in order to bring new sponsors into the program and allow existing sponsors to serve more children; and

• Improving reimbursement rates so that schools, local government agencies, and private nonprofit organizations are able to operate the program without losing money and can provide healthier food.

“Increased funding for child nutrition programs would ensure that more low-income children have access to summer meals that stave off hunger, help reduce obesity, and draw children into educational and enrichment programs that keep them learning throughout the summer,” said Jim Weill, president of FRAC. “The Summer Nutrition Programs have an important role, but they are clearly in trouble and must be improved.”

The Summer Nutrition Programs, which include the Summer Food Service Program and the National School Lunch Program, should be filling the food gap for the tens of thousands of low-income CT children who rely on school breakfast and lunch during the school year to help keep hunger at bay. Through these programs, children, aged 18 and under, can receive free meals at participating summer sites at schools, parks, other public agencies, and nonprofits. In CT, families can find nearby summer meal sites by calling 2-1-1 or visiting http://www.infoline.org/

About the report:

Data for Connecticut came from an annual report released by the Food Research and Action Center (FRAC), a national anti-hunger advocacy and research group. The FRAC report, Hunger Doesn’t Take A Vacation, gives data for all states and looks at national trends. The report measures participation in the Summer Nutrition Programs by comparing the number of low-income children receiving summer meals to the number of low-income children receiving school lunch during the regular school year. FRAC measures national summer participation during the month of July, when typically all children are out of school throughout the month and lose access to school meals. The report is available online at http://www.frac.org/.
End Hunger Connecticut! is a statewide anti-hunger and food security organization. With a focus on advocacy, outreach, education and research, EHC! serves as a comprehensive anti-hunger resource for community organizations, legislators, and low-income families.

It's Summer Food time! Find a site nearest you here!

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