Tuesday, June 23, 2015

Summer meals program struggles to reach impoverished children in rural and remote areas

While the U.S. Department of Agriculture's National School Lunch Program serves 21 million children free or reduced-price meals during the school year, the challenge is getting impoverished children fed during the summer, especially those who live in rural or remote areas. The Summer Food Service Program hopes to address that need, with more than 45,000 meal sites available last summer—a 29 percent increase over 2009—serving 23 million more meals than in the summer of 2009. (Read more)

One of the greatest hurdles is serving Native American communities, where 15 percent of households are food insecure, said a statement from USDA. In La Plata County, Colorado, the Boys & Girls Club of the Southern Ute Indian Tribe is filling a need by providing free breakfast and lunch to children 18 and younger, reports Shane Benjamin for The Durango Herald. It's the only summer meal program location in the county of 53,000—6.6 percent of which are Native Americans.

Accessing every child in need is one of the main problems, reports CNN. Fewer than four million children—less than 18 percent of kids in the school lunch program—are fed through the summer program. One problem is "the federal requirement that the kids receive the food at an approved location and eat it on-site. The rationale is to ensure that the children are the ones actually consuming the meals." But that's not easy for people living in rural and remote areas with limited transportation.

One way to help combat that problem is through technology. No Kid Hungry has created a Text for Summer Sites program that allows anyone to text "food" to 877-877 to find the location of free summer meals sites, reports the Fon du Lac Reporter. The site, which received 46,000 texts from all 50 states last year, is also available in Spanish by texting "comida."

"The way this database works is when people text their zip code and a keyword to a designated number, the nearest summer meals site address will be texted back to them," reports the Reporter. "They can also call the National Hunger Hotline or visit the website to find a site near them." (Read more)

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