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Summer Programs Take Bite Out of Ohio Hunger

Children in nine Ohio counties receive food during the summer through the state's Rural Summer Food Program. (USDA)
Children in nine Ohio counties receive food during the summer through the state's Rural Summer Food Program. (USDA)
June 11, 2018

COLUMBUS, Ohio – People are working throughout Ohio in programs to ensure children don't go hungry during the summer.

It's estimated that one in five Ohio children struggles with hunger, and the Summer Food Service Program has nearly 1,500 sites serving free, healthy meals to children up to age 18.

Carol Whitmer, director of the Ohio Food Program with the Ohio Association of Foodbanks, notes there are alternative meal opportunities for some children.

A summer weekend meals program serves about 10,000 children each week with six meals, and a summer rural delivery meals program serves about 2,000 children in hard-to-reach areas.

"The kids that live in rural counties that are too far away to come into town every day to eat lunch, we provide them with a box of food,” she explains. “So, that's 11 meals for the kids."

Of the children who typically receive free or reduced price breakfast and lunch during the school year, Whitmer says only about one in 10 in Ohio is able to access a summer food site.

Nine counties are currently being served by the Rural Summer Food Program, and about 130 sites offer weekend meals.

Whitmer says it would be great to expand both, which are now sponsored by the Governor's Office.

"This is not a permanent part of the state budget, so we'd love to see this become permanent, or ideally would become a federal program, so it would available to all kids throughout the United States," she states.

Besides serving nutritious meals, Whitmer adds many summer programs offer educational and recreational activities to keep kids engaged.

"Studies show that there's the learning loss over the summer, so it's a way of having activities and it's a way to keep kids interested during the summertime," she points out.

Find a summer meal site by texting 877-877 and typing in a ZIP Code, or by checking the Ohio Department of Education website.

Mary Kuhlman, Public News Service - OH