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Report: One in Five Low-Income Calif. Kids Gets Free Summer Meals

PHOTO: A new report shows one in five needy children in California gets free meals in the summer. Communities are coming together to expand the program. Photo credit: Jan Fidler/Morguefile.
PHOTO: A new report shows one in five needy children in California gets free meals in the summer. Communities are coming together to expand the program. Photo credit: Jan Fidler/Morguefile.
June 4, 2015

SACRAMENTO, Calif. – Nearly one in five low-income children in California gets free meals in the summer – a better rate than the one in six who receive summer lunches nationally.

That's according to a new report from the Food Research and Action Center (FRAC) that finds that 80 percent of students who normally receive free or reduced-price lunches during the school year are missing out on summer offerings.

Patrice Chamberlain, director of the California Summer Meal Coalition at the Institute for Local Government, says it's a problem of access.

"There's a real need for greater awareness and greater support from school district and community leaders to help make sure that these sites are available and that families know about them," she stresses.

The number of California families using the summer lunch program has gone up for each of the past two years.

Chamberlain says that's partly because more communities are getting involved, and partly because the drought has led to greater poverty among farm worker families.

"There's a real human impact to the drought,” she points out. “Parents are either losing jobs entirely, or they're working fewer hours or having to work multiple jobs. So families are having to rely more heavily on food assistance programs."

Congress is set to reauthorize child nutrition programs in the fall.

FRAC is pushing to expand the number of communities eligible for food assistance and change the rules to allow sites to serve three meals a day instead of two.

Suzanne Potter, Public News Service - CA