RELEASE: Nebraska continues to rank near bottom of U.S. in Summer Meals

***For Immediate Release***
Thursday, July 11, 2019

Contact: Magdalena Cazarez
Communications Director
Office: (402) 438-8853 Ext 119
Cell: (402) 504-0074
mcazarez@neappleseed.org

Nebraska continues to rank near bottom of U.S. in Summer Meals

Participation in summer meals helps children get prepared for classroom success

 

LINCOLN – Nutritious summer meals should be available to all children all year round. However, national rankings show Nebraska maintaining a low ranking among the nation but making progress, according to a new study by the Food Research and Action Center (FRAC).

In FRAC’s latest annual “Hunger Doesn’t Take A Vacation” status report, Nebraska held steady at 49th among the 50 states and the District of Columbia in participation in the Summer Food Service Program (SFSP), a federally funded initiative that allows community organizations to provide meals free of cost to children 18 and under from low-income families during the summer.

According to the report, Nebraska is one of fourteen states serving SFSP meals to under 1 child per 10 eating free or reduced-price school lunch during the school year (7.1 per 100 students). However, there was an increase of 3.8 percent in the number of meals served overall between 2017 to 2018. Summer breakfast service increased significantly by 14.9 percent. While this is encouraging, there is still much more our state can do to fight hunger for the children who may not have access to the meals they need when out of school.

Read the full report: “Hunger Doesn’t Take A Vacation

Part of the increase in participation is likely due to more community sites serving meals in the summer in 2018. The report states there were 192 Summer Food Service Program sites operating in 2018, up from 156 in 2017 – a rise of 23.1 percent. There was also an increase of Nebraska sponsors for SFSP sites from 56 to 66 in the same timeframe. 

“This new report reveals that a large number of Nebraska children may still not be receiving enough food during the summer,” said Nebraska Appleseed Economic Justice Program Associate Eric Savaiano. “This most recent data is a sign that our state is moving in the right direction but must still improve its efforts to fight hunger for children. Summer meals can have positive impacts when kids head back into the classroom this fall and puts less stress on families with tight budgets working to get ahead.”

FRAC’s status report highlights some key ways states can improve participation in the program to help more children get the meals they need in the summer, including serving meals on weekends, beginning their summer food programs earlier in June, and increasing the number of fresh fruits and vegetables served with the meals.

Nebraska communities can make a difference and help feed more kids in need through this program. Organizations can learn more about starting or supporting summer food programs from the Nebraska Department of Education, and the United States Department of Agriculture (USDA) Food and Nutrition Service has a Summer Meals Toolkit to help organizations learn about supporting summer food participation at any level of program administration.

The USDA released this map to help locate summer meal sites in our communities. Find the closest summer meals site to you by texting “FOOD” or “COMIDA” to 877-877 or calling 211.

“We encourage more communities to explore opening a summer food site to ensure more Nebraska children aren’t facing hunger in the summer,” Savaiano said. “By taking proactive steps that are available through the Summer Food Service Program, we can make sure our kids are getting the meals they need to have a healthy and happy summer.”

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