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Summer Food Program Picks Up Where School Leaves Off

The Summer Food Service Program is open to all children 18 and younger. (Amanda Mills, USCDCP/public-domain-image.com)
The Summer Food Service Program is open to all children 18 and younger. (Amanda Mills, USCDCP/public-domain-image.com)
July 7, 2016

HARTFORD, Conn. - The end of the school year doesn't mean low-income children need to go hungry. Thousands of children in Connecticut rely on free and reduced-price meals at school for a big part of their daily nutrition. But many families don't realize that federally-funded meals for children are available throughout the state during the summer months too.

According Lucy Nolan, executive director of End Hunger Connecticut, the program provides two meals a day to any child.

"They're free to anyone age 18 or under," she said. "They can just show up, get in line, get the meal. They're USDA, so they have to be nutritionally balanced."

Locations are listed on the End Hunger Connecticut website and are also available by calling '211.'

Children who don't get good nutrition over the summer can experience health problems, including developmental and weight issues. And Nolan points out that kids who don't eat well in the summer tend to lose a lot of what they learned during the school year.

"When kids are participating in something in the summer, and particularly when they're getting food, they're ready to go back to school in the fall with bright minds," she added.

She adds parents who don't take advantage of the program can see their food costs go up about $300 a month in the summer.

Though the program is free, enrollment is open and meals are available in locations statewide, it may be one of the best-kept secrets in Connecticut. Nolan said only about one in four eligible children participates.

"And our goal is to really increase it and to make sure that every kid who is eligible will be able to get these meals," she said. "So, they're available, and they're ready for kids to access."

Nationally, about 22 million children get free or reduced price school lunches, but only 2.6 million participate in the Summer Food Service Program.

Andrea Sears, Public News Service - CT