During the school year, students who qualify for free school lunches can usually count on nutritious meals. But what happens in the summer?
The Senate Agriculture Committee cleared legislation Wednesday to reauthorize critical childhood nutrition programs, which includes a provision U.S. Sen. Sherrod Brown (D-OH) introduced that would expand school lunch programs to ensure Ohio kids can get nutritious meals during summer vacation.
“All Ohio children should be able to count on healthy, nutritious meals year-round,” Brown said ahead of the vote. “Our bill will ensure that children in high-poverty rural areas and suburban communities who don’t have access to summer meal sites, will be eligible to receive $30 per month to spend on nutritious food. I am also pleased that the bill will reduce paperwork and make it easier for site sponsors to participate in the program. Summer Programs are critical not only because they ensure that children have access to food, but also because, in many cities across the country, summer feeding sites also have enrichment activities that make sure low-income children aren’t falling behind in their studies when school is out for summer.”
Immediately following the committee vote, Brown held a news conference call which the Daily Times participated in to outline legislation that would reauthorize funding for programs that provide school lunches, breakfasts, and meals for children and mothers without enough to eat.
According to data released by the U.S. Department of Agriculture, more than 630,000 Ohio children received free or reduced-priced lunch on an average day; however, many students miss out on this important source of nutritious food in the summer months.
“One quarter of Ohio’s children live in households that have experienced hunger during the past year,” Brown said. “Child nutrition programs are critical to providing school lunches and school breakfasts for these students. Many of these children don’t have access to nutritious meals when the school cafeteria is closed for the summer. You think about weekends, holidays, and then the long summer when many many of these 630,000 school children in Ohio that are on the free or reduced breakfast and lunch program and what they have to do.”
Brown was joined on the conference call by Jessica Shelly, foodservice director at the Cincinnati Public Schools, who outlined how the legislation would support programs in southwest Ohio.
“Initiatives like the Hunger Free Summer for Kids that Senator Brown is co-sponsoring are exactly the support needed to make it easier for children to get a healthy meal and make sure that no child goes hungry during the summer,” Shelly said. “The streamlining of the summer feeding program sponsor paperwork will allow Cincinnati Public Schools to continue to work in tandem with community partners to reach and feed more children in our community.”
The Summer Food Service Program (SFSP) provides free meals and snacks to help children in low-income areas get the nutrition they need throughout the summer months when they are out of school. SFSP is run locally by approved sponsors, including school districts, local government agencies, camps, or private nonprofit organizations.
Brown said his bipartisan Hunger Free Summer for Kids Act would increase access to summer federal child nutrition programs by making it easier for children in rural areas who can’t get to a feeding site to still get nutritious meals and allow children to eat meals off-site in case certain conditions are met.
Reach Frank Lewis at 740-353-3101, ext. 1928, or on Twitter @franklewis.