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No Summer Vacation For Childhood Hunger

PHOTO: The number of children participating in federal Summer Nutrition Programs is on the rise in Michigan and across the nation, but advocates say there are still far too many children going hungry during the summer. Photo credit: anitapeppers/morguefile.
PHOTO: The number of children participating in federal Summer Nutrition Programs is on the rise in Michigan and across the nation, but advocates say there are still far too many children going hungry during the summer. Photo credit: anitapeppers/morguefile.
June 4, 2015

LANSING, Mich. – The lazy days of summer are just around the corner, but those can also be the hungriest days for many children in Michigan.

That's why there's a campaign to increase awareness and participation in Summer Nutrition Programs.

According to a new report from the Food Research and Action Center (FRAC), last summer saw an increase of about 4,000 Michigan children receiving lunches each day, which helped feed nearly 14 percent of the state's most vulnerable children.

Justin Rumenapp, director of Michigan Hunger Solutions, says it's critical to bring that number up even higher, especially in high poverty areas where many families rely on school meals.

"So when school lets out in the middle of June, that source of nutrition is gone for the children,” he points out. “That puts additional strain on the family food budget because healthy, fresh foods are often the most expensive in the grocery store."

The Summer Nutrition Programs provide free meals at participating sites for children under age 18, and are often hosted at schools, parks, and community agencies.

Rumenapp says parents and caregivers can call 211 to find the closest Summer Nutrition Program site, or log on to Michigan.gov/meetupeatup.

Many of the program sites offer much more than just meals, with expanded learning opportunities, physical activities, field trips and safe places for children to play.

Rumenapp says the benefits stretch far beyond the summer months.

"The children who participate in summer meal programs with the activity component also come back to school in the fall ready to learn because they haven't been hungry during the summer months, they've been learning, they've been playing, hanging out with their friends," he explains.

Rumenapp adds that getting more families on board is just one piece of the puzzle, as these programs will only keep growing if more sponsors and sites join the partnership, and if Congress reauthorizes funding for the programs later this year.

Mona Shand, Public News Service - MI