For Immediate Release
June 14, 2016
Contact: Alex Rossman
Report shows massive outreach needed to feed hungry kids, secure millions in federal funding
LANSING—Only about 1 in 8 low-income children in Michigan who need summer meals is accessing them according to a national report, Hunger Doesn’t Take a Vacation, released today by the Food Research & Action Center. In July 2015, 484,502 Michigan students who were eligible for the free or reduced-price meal program during the school year did not access the summer meals program. For the state, 70,286 low-income children received summer meals, a decrease of seven percent from the previous summer.
“We want to see a reversal of this trend and make sure that the kids in Michigan who need these meals are eating them,” said Gilda Z. Jacobs, president and CEO of the Michigan League for Public Policy. “With child poverty still significantly high in Michigan, policymakers need to increase their efforts to promote and raise awareness of the Summer Nutrition Programs and work harder to reduce poverty for nearly half a million Michigan kids.”
The report is an annual analysis of data that measures the success of Summer Nutrition Programs at the national and state levels by comparing the number of children receiving summer meals to the number of low-income children receiving free or reduced-price school lunches during the regular school year. The school lunch data are a good proxy number for the extent of need in each state. By this measure, nearly 13 low-income children in Michigan ate summer meals for every 100 who ate school lunch during the regular school year. Nationally, the ratio was 15.8 kids per 100, down from last year’s ratio of 16.2 kids per 100.
Michigan’s summer nutrition participation rate for 2015 ranked 35th nationally, a drop four spots from its 2014 national ranking. At the same time that Michigan’s summer food participation rates declined, the number of Summer Food Service Program sponsors and sites both increased.
“Free and reduced-price school lunches and free summer meals are an important tool to help feed hungry kids, but the significant drop off after school’s out is alarming,” said Alicia Guevara Warren, Kids Count in Michigan project director at the Michigan League for Public Policy. “The number of kids in Michigan who need summer meals should be going down, not the number of children who need them and are not accessing them, and we need to work collaboratively at the local, state and federal level to address that. The programs are in place to provide these meals and significant federal funding is available—we just need to do more to inform kids, families and communities.”
There is still much room for improvement in Michigan. Low participation means missed meals for children and missed dollars for the state. If Michigan had reached 40 children with summer food for every 100 low-income children who get school lunch during the regular school year, Michigan would have fed an additional 151,629 low-income children every day in July 2015 and brought in $11,967,313 more federal dollars to do so.
“Greater participation in summer food means more low-income children get the fuel they need to thrive over the summer months,” said FRAC President Jim Weill. “That reduces hunger, boosts health, reduces obesity and keeps children primed to learn. Congress can better meet the need through the pending Child Nutrition Reauthorization by making strategic and thoughtful investments in the Summer Nutrition Programs that bolster their capacity to serve even more children.”
The Summer Nutrition Programs, which include the Summer Food Service Program and the National School Lunch Program in the summer months, should be filling the food gap for the thousands of low-income Michigan children who rely on school breakfast and lunch during the school year to help keep hunger at bay. These programs provide free meals at participating summer sites at schools, parks, other public agencies and nonprofits for children under 18. Not only do children benefit from the free meals, but they also benefit from the enrichment activities that keep them learning and engaged. The best way to meet children’s needs over the summer is with healthy meals that are served in positive community environments while the children’s parents are working.
Additional information on child poverty and the number of kids eligible for free or reduced-price lunch during the school year, including county-specific data, can be found here: http://www.mlpp.org/kids-count/michigan-2/mi-data-book-2016.
Michigan families can find nearby summer meal sites here or by calling 517-373-3347.
About the report: Data for Michigan come from the June 2016 version of the annual report released by the Food Research & Action Center (FRAC), the lead advocacy organization working to end hunger in America through stronger public policies. The FRAC report, Hunger Doesn’t Take a Vacation, gives 2014 and 2015 data for every state and looks at national and state trends. FRAC measures summer participation during the month of July, when typically almost all children are out of school throughout the month and lose access to regular school year meals. The report is available online at www.frac.org.
The Food Research & Action Center (FRAC) is the lead advocacy organization working to end hunger in America through stronger public policies. For more information, visit www.frac.org.
The Michigan League for Public Policy, www.mlpp.org, is a nonprofit policy institute focused on economic opportunity for all. It is the only state-level organization that addresses poverty in a comprehensive way.