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Fed Cuts Impact Summer Meals for Hungry Ohio Kids

PHOTO: Federal sequestration is reducing the number of AmeriCorps VISTA members who help to feed hungry children meals during the summer months.  Photo courtesy of OAFB.
PHOTO: Federal sequestration is reducing the number of AmeriCorps VISTA members who help to feed hungry children meals during the summer months. Photo courtesy of OAFB.
April 18, 2013

COLUMBUS, Ohio - Finding food during the summer months can be a challenge for Ohio's at-risk children, and this year it could be an even tougher task.

The AmeriCorps VISTA Summer Associate program supports Summer Food Service programs in the state that feed children who normally receive free and reduced-price school meals during the academic year.

Joree Jacobs, director of communications for the Ohio Association of Foodbanks, said their member slots were reduced by 135 this year because of federal sequestration cuts.

"We're really concerned," she said, "about how these potential national service cuts and ongoing threats to the program may affect the greater story of not only what the national service programs mean to participants and those volunteers, but also all of the low-income families and children and seniors that may be affected."

The sequestration cut approximately $85 billion from the overall federal budget.

There is lot of uncertainly in many other areas, Jacobs said, including recently announced funding reductions in a program that provides boxes of food to Ohio seniors and cuts to WIC, the program that provides food and support to pregnant women, new mothers and children.

Just as important as the meals they serve, Jacobs said, are the additional activities VISTA members provide that keep youngsters engaged and coming back. They are positive role models for the children, she said.

"They really engage and can do a lot of outreach in the communities and get the kids involved," she said. "We hear all kinds of feedback all the time from the kids and parents that participate about how great those members are and what they bring to the program."

The AmeriCorps VISTA Summer Associate program actually has grown in the past few years, she said, and it's a shame to see the number of volunteers reduced so greatly. There were only 40 granted slots for this summer, she said.

Mary Kuhlman, Public News Service - OH