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No Vacation from Hunger: MI Children Missing Out on Summer Meals

Many low-income Michigan children are not getting summer meals that are available. (charmaineswart/Morguefile)
Many low-income Michigan children are not getting summer meals that are available. (charmaineswart/Morguefile)
June 15, 2016

LANSING, Mich. -- Nearly a half million Michigan children are missing out on summer meals, according to new data from the Food Research and Action Center.

The report, "Hunger Doesn't Take a Vacation," examined participation in the summer meal programs in July 2015 and found a slight increase in participation nationally compared with the prior year. But Crystal Fitzsimons, director of the center's school and out-of-school programs, said participation dropped about 7 percent in Michigan, with about 70,000 low-income children served, "which is about 13 low-income children for 100 who participate in school lunch.

"Michigan had a slight decrease last summer," she said, "which mostly happened on the school side so fewer schools were providing summer meals to kids."

While fewer schools were serving meals, the report showed that the overall number of Summer Food Service Program sponsors and sites in Michigan both increased. Michigan ranked 35th nationally for summer meal participation, a drop of four spots from 2014.

Fitzsimmons said it's critical that children and families know summer food programs are available and that the community ensures that enough sites are serving meals. She said the programs often combine healthy meals with activities and educational enrichment.

"They help kids return to school healthier and also more ready to learn," she said, " 'cause lot of kids actually experience summer slide if they don't have access to educational activities that keep them engaged and focused and learning."

Besides missed meals for children, Fitzsimons said low participation also means missed funding for the state. According to the report, if Michigan had reached 40 children with summer food for every 100 children who receive school lunch, 151,000 children would have been fed every day in July 2015, with nearly 12,000 more federal dollars made available to do so.

The report is online at frac.org.

Mary Kuhlman, Public News Service - MI