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Indiana Makes Strides in Kids' Summer Meal Participation

PHOTO: A new report finds Indiana is making strides when it comes to ensuring that lower-income children are able to get nutritious meals during the summer months. Photo credit: M. Kuhlman.
PHOTO: A new report finds Indiana is making strides when it comes to ensuring that lower-income children are able to get nutritious meals during the summer months. Photo credit: M. Kuhlman.
June 6, 2014

INDIANAPOLIS - Hundreds of thousands of lower-income Indiana children eat free or reduced-priced lunch and breakfast during the school day. But when the bell rings for summer vacation, ensuring those same kids have access to nutritious meals can be a challenge.

A new report by the Food Research and Action Center found more than 75,000 children received a summer meal in Indiana in July last year. That's a 23 percent increase from the prior year, according to Emily Weikert Bryant, executive director of Feeding Indiana's Hungry.

"In Indiana, the participation rate went up a good amount," Weikert Bryant said, "but we're still only reaching about one in six kids with summer meals, who would be eligible for free and reduced lunch during the school year."

She said some common barriers can keep children from participating, including parents who are unaware of the program, a lack of transportation, and an inadequate number of sites in an area to meet the need. More outreach is needed, said Bryant, to ensure all children who need food can get it during the summer months.

Summer nutrition programs provide free meals for eligible children at sites across Indiana, including schools, parks, community centers, and other public agencies. Weikert Bryant said the programs are sometimes combined with educational, physical and fun activities for kids.

"The Department of Education is focusing on some reading initiatives for sites to utilize during the summer when they're providing meals," she said. "Some places are already offering programs, so they utilize the Summer Food Service Program to get meals there. Camps can use the programs for their campers."

Families can locate a summer meal site by calling 211, or looking online at fns.usda.gov. Read the full report on summer nutrition programs at FRAC.org.

Mary Kuhlman, Public News Service - IN