July Biggest Month for Kids' Summer Meal Programs
PHOTO: In July last year, Oregon summer meal programs served almost 688,000 lunches statewide. Their goal is to ensure that lower-income children don't go without nutritious food when school isn't in session. Photo credit: Monkey Business Images / iStockphoto.com
July 17, 2014
PRINEVILLE, Ore. – July is when more children turn out for free meals in their communities than any other summer month – and at almost 750 sites across the state, hungry children are being fed.
Oregon's numbers are down a little bit in the latest report on Summer Nutrition Programs. It shows for every five children who qualify for free or reduced price meals during the school year, at least three don't get them in the summer.
There are many reasons for that, and transportation is a big one.
In Crook County, the school district's nutrition services supervisor, Dana Rudy, says it's just harder to round up children in the summer.
"I know here, we're a little bit more rural, so kids are more scattered than they usually would be during the school year,” she explains. “So maybe it's getting into town, to get to the sites.
“I'm hoping that maybe next year, we can actually get a truck or a bus, or something that can go around to more sites, rather than just having the kids come to us."
That's exactly what the Coos Bay School District has done and is reporting success with its mobile meal service.
And Rudy says Crook County has expanded its meal sites from a single location in Prineville last summer, to five this summer.
Summer meal programs are rebuilding in some areas, according to Signe Anderson, senior child nutrition policy analyst with the Food Research and Action Center (FRAC).
As school budgets were trimmed during the recession, summer school in many areas was cut, affecting the meal programs as well. Anderson says the places that feed the most children are typically those that offer something fun for them to do or learn.
"Oftentimes, the meal programs are set up with summer school programming that goes on during the summertime,” she explains. “So, ideally, if there's funding available for summer school or just summer programming in general, that would go a long way."
The latest data from FRAC says in July of last year, almost 688,000 meals were served by Summer Nutrition Programs in Oregon.
By August, that number dropped to about 360,000, as summer learning and recreation programs tapered off before the new school year.
Oregon parents looking for summer meals for children can find them online at summerfoodoregon.org.