For many kids, summer vacation is a much deserved reward for a year of hard work in the classroom. For some who rely on free and reduced-price school meals, however, the summer months can be difficult. When school is out, these kids no longer have access to school meals and their families’ budgets are often stretched to the breaking point. In fact, studies show that kids are at a higher risk for both obesity and hunger during the summer months.
Many families also face the stress of providing safe, supervised and affordable places for kids and teens to socialize, play and continue to learn. It doesn’t have to be this way. Summer meals programs, which include the Summer Food Service Program and the Seamless Summer Option/National School Lunch Program, help kids who rely on free and reduced-price school meals to continue receiving healthy food during the summer. Summer meals programs are funded by the United States Department of Agriculture (USDA); administered by state agencies, such as state departments of education; and run by public and private organizations, including schools, community centers and faith-based organizations. Summer meals programs can provide an important source of nutritious food for America’s youth during the critical summer months.
The availability of free meals is also an incentive for children to participate in summer enrichment programs, which means that children are not only well-fed, but in a safe environment engaged in educational and recreational activities that can, in turn, help return them to school ready to learn. Despite all of the benefits of summer meals programs, they are severely underutilized. According to the Food Research and Action Center, only about 15 percent of kids who eat free or reduced-price school meals also receive meals during the summer. That means that about 16 million students who rely on free or reduced-price meals during the school year do not have access to them when school is out. Donate, organize, volunteer and help ensure that kids in your community can enjoy the beautiful Maine summer the way all kids should.