Wednesday, July 18, 2018

Summer food programs face challenges in rural areas

"Participation in summer food programs for children increased nationwide by 30 percent from 2007 to 2016, but administrative headaches and transportation issues can make it difficult for smaller providers and rural communities to participate, experts said Tuesday" at a hearing the House Subcommittee on Early Childhood, Elementary and Secondary Education, Kate Queram reports for Route Fifty.

According to Kathryn Larin, director of education, workforce and income security at the Government Accountability Office, availability of meal sites and peoples' awareness of such sites were a problem in most states. That goes especially for rural areas where low population density, lack of transportation to meal sites and fewer meal sites limit children's participation. Administrative and paperwork burdens can also be challenging for smaller food programs to cope with, she said.

"The summer food service program, administered by the Department of Agriculture, provides free meals to low-income children and teens when school is not in session. The program administered 149 million meals to children in fiscal year 2016, but participation numbers are unclear due to inconsistent reporting methods across state lines, according to a GAO report released in May," Queram reports. "Tuesday’s hearing addressed those reporting challenges, but focused mostly on innovative summer food programs at the state level."

Public-private partnerships with food programs are an important way of bridging service gaps in rural areas, according to Denise Ogilvie with Catholic Charities of Northeast Kansas, a ministry that serves 21 counties and served more than 15,000 meals at 32 food program sites last summer.

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