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Many Children Not Getting Enough Food During Summer Months

Eight in 10 children who get free lunch at school don't participate in summer meal programs, according to Hunger Free America. (Arkansas Hunger Relief Alliance)
Eight in 10 children who get free lunch at school don't participate in summer meal programs, according to Hunger Free America. (Arkansas Hunger Relief Alliance)
June 1, 2016

LITTLE ROCK, Ark. - Eighty percent of the children who get free lunch at school don't participate in summer meal programs, mostly because their parents and guardians aren't aware of them, according to the anti-hunger group Hunger Free America.

Joel Berg, the group's chief executive, is pushing the message about summer nutrition across the country. He toured several spots in Arkansas on Tuesday, including the Afterschool Meals program at the Hillary Rodham Clinton Children's Library and Learning Center. Berg said hunger is an issue every state in the nation faces, and it's especially prevalent in Arkansas.

"Arkansas does have, unfortunately, one of the highest rates of hunger and one of the highest rates of child hunger in the entire United States," Berg said. "One in five Arkansas residents lives in homes that can't afford enough food. That's about a 30 percent increase in the last decade."

Berg's group has a nationwide toll free number, 1-866-3-HUNGRY, set up so anyone can call to see where free summer meals are offered in their community. He said there are things states, cities and counties and community groups can do to help end hunger, but it's really going to need to be addressed on a national level.

"If we understand that the threat of terrorism requires a national response, if we understand that cities need to be connected by federally funded interstate highways, we need to understand that in a national economy we need a national response to problems such as this," he said.

One in four Arkansas children deals with hunger issues, Berg said, with 29 percent living below the poverty level. According to the Arkansas Hunger Relief Alliance, families spend on average an additional $300 each month on food during the summer.

Information on the summer meal program is online at arhungeralliance.org.

Veronica Carter, Public News Service - AR