Ensuring kids don’t go hungry when school’s out

 Contact Amber Canto, 608-265-4975, amber.canto@wisc.edu

During the school year, hundreds of thousands of state children benefit from nutrition-boosting school breakfast, lunch and afterschool snack programs. But access to the programs ends along with the school year—leaving many students at risk for hunger over the summer months.

The number of children eligible to receive free and reduced price meals following the recession has remained high when compared to pre-recession levels. During the 2015-2016 school year, children living in a household of four are eligible for free meals if household income is at or below $31,525 per year, and reduced-price meals if household income is at or below $44,863 yearly.

“Making sure that children have access to the healthy food they need during the summer months, and ensuring that families of low-income children know about summer programs and how to access them is imperative,” says Amber Canto, Wisconsin Nutrition Education Program state coordinator.

The United States Department of Agriculture funds two federal summer nutrition programs: the National School Lunch Program and the Summer Food Service Program. At the state level, both programs are administered by the Wisconsin Department of Public Instruction in conjunction with USDA.

“The Summer Food Service Program is designed to provide those children dependent on school meals access to nutritious food, and to decrease child hunger and malnutrition, and avoid delayed development during the summer months,” explains Canto.

Canto and her UW-Extension colleagues work to promote awareness of hunger and resources for food insecure households and to provide nutrition education to low-income children and families.

Many state organizations support the Summer Food Service Program in Wisconsin, including public and private school food authorities; summer camps; local, municipal, county, tribal and state governments; colleges and universities participating in the National Youth Sports Program; and private nonprofit organizations. All sponsors must apply to participate with the Wisconsin Department of Public Instruction.

Applications are available now and the deadline for submission is June 15.

The summer meal site sponsors are reimbursed for serving meals that meet specific nutritional guidelines. Meals are served free to children under the age of 18 and to disabled individuals over age 18 who are enrolled in school programs. Canto notes that many summer feeding sites also include child activities and other enrichment opportunities.

Last summer, Wisconsin served 2.8 million meals at 872 sites operated by 208 sponsoring organizations.

To find out if your community is already participating in the Summer Food Service Program, visit the Wisconsin Department of Public Instruction Child Nutrition Programs website at http://dpi.wi.gov/nutrition or call the National Hunger Hotline at 1-866-3-HUNGRY to find meals for children.

For more information, contact:

Amy J. Kolano, RD, CD

Summer Food Service Program Coordinator

Phone: 608. 266.7124

Email: amy.kolano@dpi.wi.gov

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