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Nevada Summer Meal Programs Kick Off, But Greatly Underused

Summer meal programs for children kick off this week and next around the state. (Nevada Dept. of Agriculture)
Summer meal programs for children kick off this week and next around the state. (Nevada Dept. of Agriculture)
June 8, 2016

LAS VEGAS - There are 261,000 children in Nevada are eligible for free or reduced-price lunches, but only about 10 percent actually show up for the free meals each summer.

Nonetheless, the Nevada Department of Agriculture will distribute meals at 323 sites around the state, serving 627,000 breakfasts and lunches this summer, compared to 591,000 last year.

Donnell Barton is administrator for the Food Nutrition Division for the Nevada Department of Agriculture.

"I can tell you that the Summer Food Service Program is the most underutilized program of all the U.S.D.A.'s child nutrition programs," she says.

Just under half of the children in Washoe County, and more than two-thirds in Clark County, qualify for free or reduced-price meals. You don't need to sign up, just show up. For more information go to the Nevada Department of Agriculture Summer Meals website.

Alexis Merz, public relations specialist with Three Square Food Bank in Las Vegas, says her food bank will operate 100 distribution sites around town this summer trying to bring food closer to where the children live and play.

"We're really excited to be rolling out our mobile meals, where we'll be at 17 apartment complexes," she says. "And we'll have a truck, music, similar to ice cream trucks, and instead of coming out for ice cream you'll be coming out for a free meal."

Jocelyn Lantrip, director of marketing and communications for the Food Bank of Northern Nevada, says the low participation rates are puzzling, because the need is clearly still out there even as the economy recovers.

"Many of our clients are working again but they're just not making enough money to meet their basic needs and therefore we're as busy as we ever have been," she says.

Suzanne Potter, Public News Service - NV