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MT Summer Meal Programs Fight Childhood Hunger

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Monday, June 18, 2018   

HELENA, Mont. — Summer can be a difficult time for hungry children. In Montana, about one-in-six children lives in a food insecure household where they aren’t sure how they will get their next meal.

Lorianne Burhop, chief policy officer with the Montana Food Bank Network, said while that number has gone down, any number above zero is worthy of concern. For families who rely on school to provide breakfast and lunch for kids, summer means having to provide 10 extra meals per week.

Burhop said that can be tough - particularly in addition to other costs, such as day care. And then there's the cost to children when they're hungry.

"It can have a harmful effect on physical health, mental health, academic achievement. It really can have long-term consequences for our kids,” Burhop said. “So making sure throughout the summer months, when kids lose access to the school meal program, that they still have access to consistent, quality meals is really important."

Across the country, the United States Department of Agriculture's Summer Food Service Program works to combat hunger in the months when kids are away from school. It has more than 90 sponsors throughout Montana, including schools, nonprofits and churches.

There still are some Montana communities without sites, Burhop said, but the program continues to grow. To find a site nearby, Montanans can text "summer meals" to 97779 or visit fns.usda.gov.

Burhop said another key component in keeping children fed is the Supplemental Nutrition Assistance Program, formerly known as food stamps.

"SNAP is really our most important anti-hunger program at any time of the year,” she said. “SNAP helps around 60,000 Montana households keep food on the table each month."

SNAP has become a linchpin in the debate over this year's Farm Bill. A House version of the bill that would have required strict work requirements for recipients failed in May.


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