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Roll Call for Summer Nutrition: Thousands of WYO Students are Absent

PHOTO: The number of low-income Wyoming children receiving free summer meals has dropped, even as the number nationwide has risen. Photo credit: iStockphoto.com.
PHOTO: The number of low-income Wyoming children receiving free summer meals has dropped, even as the number nationwide has risen. Photo credit: iStockphoto.com.
June 10, 2013

CASPER, Wyo. - Fewer Wyoming families are taking advantage of free summer meals available for their children. A new report from the Food Research and Action Center says 25-thousand Wyoming children get free or reduced-price lunches at school, but less than four thousand receive the free summer meals. And the number receiving summer food has declined by nine percent over a year.

Crystal FitzSimons, FRAC director of school and out-of-school-time programs, said one of the challenges is making the meal sites convenient for families.

"Transportation is one of the big barriers for the summer nutrition programs," she said, "and it is harder in communities that are rural to get kids to and from summer sites."

About half the states saw fewer children receiving summer meals in 2012 compared with 2011, which runs counter to the increased need that's being seen during the school year. The U.S. Department of Agriculture made it a goal this summer to increase the meals served by 5 million, nationwide.

FitzSimons pointed out that if there were more summer activities for kids, there would be more potential sites to serve them nutritious meals.

"The programs are not serving all of the kids that they should. Part of the big problem," she explained, "and this is true in urban, suburban and rural areas, is there are not enough summer programs for low-income children to keep them safe, engaged and active during the summer months."

In some communities across the country, summer kids' meals are "going mobile," combining with library bookmobiles or local "Meals On Wheels" programs. However, that also takes funding and a dedicated base of volunteers.

Summer food sites in Wyoming are listed at the Wyoming Department of Education website, http://edu.wyoming.gov.

The full report is available at http://frac.org.

Deborah Courson Smith/Deb Courson Smith, Public News Service - WY