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Commonwealth Among Leaders in Summer Nutrition for Kids

GRAPHIC: A new report on Summer Nutrition Programs shows Massachusetts and many other states are doing a better job of helping children stay nourished and healthy when schoolís out. Credit: U.S. Dept. of Agriculture.
GRAPHIC: A new report on Summer Nutrition Programs shows Massachusetts and many other states are doing a better job of helping children stay nourished and healthy when schoolís out. Credit: U.S. Dept. of Agriculture.
June 2, 2014

GLOUCESTER, Mass. – A new report shows the summer of 2013 marked the first major increase in 10 years in the number of low-income children eating in summer meals programs.

The new figures from the Food Research and Action Center show the Commonwealth moving up from 11th to 10th place among states in terms of the average daily participation in Summer Nutrition Programs, with an increase of nearly 1 percent.

Julia LaFontaine oversees the hunger-fighting activities of The Open Door in Gloucester.

"The summer meal – whether it's lunch or whether it's supper or whether it's both – becomes vitally important to the 47 percent of the kids in the Gloucester school system that are without the meal that they usually get in school," she points out.

The report says as of last July, the Summer Nutrition Programs, countrywide, grew to serve nearly 3 million children, with the largest percentage increase since 2003.

LaFontaine says as alluring as the Cape Ann area is to summer visitors, it hides significant food insecurity issues year-round.

"We actually serve one in six Gloucester residents with our programs throughout the year,” she says. “So, that speaks a little bit to the need that, you know, is hidden behind the beautiful beaches and the tourist spots of an area as lovely as Gloucester."

One of the benefits of The Open Door's summer meals program, LaFontaine says, is that it keeps some children away from a diet of fast food.

"But it also ends up translating into being a really important piece of having a healthy community, so that kids are having that consistent, adequate access to nutrition during the months that they're not in school," she says.



Mark Scheerer, Public News Service - MA