The Danger of Summer Break: A Hunger Message from the USDA

Dr. Janey Thornton
July 26, 2011

During
the regular school year, nearly 21 million kids from low-income households get
free and reduced-price meals at school through USDA’s National School Lunch
Program—healthy meals that provide the nutrition they need to grow and thrive.

Summer
is a different story.

Though
hunger doesn’t take a summer vacation, fewer than three million kids are fed
through USDA’s Summer Food Service Program when the weather turns warm and
school doors are closed. 

That’s
why we need to redouble our efforts to make sure that the doors to healthy
nutrition stay open in schools and parks and community centers, and all the
other wonderful places where local sponsors offer USDA’s Summer Food Service
Program to kids in low-income areas—kids who might otherwise go hungry.

We
need to ensure that the other 18 million kids who receive healthy meals at
school during the regular school year have access to the nutrition they need
through the balmy days of summer. So they can return to school in the fall
healthy—and ready to learn. 

The
good news is everyone can help. In fact, USDA relies on our partners - folks
like you - to highlight the important nutrition benefits provided by the Summer
Food Service Program and other healthy meal options available for low-income children
across the country.

Whether
you are part of an organization or an individual, there is something that
everyone can do. Here are a few ways you or your organization can help this
summer:

- Conduct Community Outreach with the
National Hunger Hotline
. Help ensure families know about the Summer Food
Service Program and where kids can go to receive a nutritious meal. They can
contact the National Hunger Hotline at 1-866-3-HUNGRY or 1-877-8-HAMBRE, or
contact their local Summer Food Service Program state agency to find a
participating site in their community. Summer Food Service Program state agency
contacts can be found at www.summerfood.usda.gov. Encourage sites and
sponsors in your community to register and promote their site using the
National Hunger Hotline

- Volunteer. Many Summer Food Service
Program Sponsors and Sites need volunteers to help make their programs
successful. Encourage program sponsors and sites to post their volunteer
opportunities at www.serve.gov/endhunger. This website allows volunteer
opportunities to be posted, so volunteers can search for opportunities.
Volunteers can be used for things such as setting up or cleaning up a site, or
planning recreational or educational activities for children. Looking to be
more involved? Search for a volunteer opportunity near you and help your local
sponsors and sites

- Promote the Summer Food Service Program
Outreach Toolkit
. The Outreach Toolkit helps sponsors and sites create
outreach materials that help the community learn about the program. The
Outreach Toolkit and other resources can be found at www.summerfood.usda.gov

- Make Your Commitment. Don’t let
children in your community go hungry this summer. Make your commitment. Become
a champion to end hunger.  Visit: www.endhunger.usda.gov.
If there isn’t a Summer Food Service Program site in your community, it is a
great time to start planning for next year

The
Summer Food Service Program, by the way, is one of 15 nutrition assistance
programs overseen by USDA’s Food and Nutrition Service that include the
Supplemental Nutrition Assistance Program (formerly called the Food Stamp
Program), the Special Supplemental Nutrition Program for Women, Infants and
Children (WIC), and the National School Lunch and School Breakfast programs.

Together
these programs touch the lives of one in four Americans over the course of a
year and form a national safety net against hunger. Visit www.fns.usda.gov
for more information about FNS nutrition assistance programs.

Working
together, we can make a real difference in the lives of our nation’s children
through the Summer Food Service Program by ensuring that “Food is In when
school is Out.” For more information on the Summer Food Service Program, visit:
www.fns.usda.gov.

To print a PDF version of this document, click here.


Dr. Janey Thornton is the USDA Deputy
Undersecretary for Food, Nutrition, and Consumer Services. This article was originally published on Spotlight on Poverty and Opportunity, and is reprinted here with permission.