LB 1090 will help children access the food they need in the summertime to learn and grow. Providing access to healthy, nutritious foods is important for children’s health. The Summer Food Service Program provides federally funded meals to sites at nonprofit organizations, schools, and other locations to reach hungry children in the summer when free and reduced price meals are not available at school. Sponsoring organizations help to coordinate sites and manage paperwork.
We can be proud that from 2009 to 2010 the number of sites increased significantly from 101 to 224. We also added 6 sponsoring organizations.
However, the Summer Food Service Program does not reach all the children in Nebraska who could benefit. During the 2008-2009 school year, 38.35% of children in Nebraska public schools participated in the free or reduced price lunch program. That amounted to 98,816 children who gained access to healthy meals in school. However, during the summer of 2009, we reached only 9,831 of those children with summer meals – only about 10% of the children who access free and reduced price meals during the school year. Nebraska ranks 41st in the nation for providing meals to low-income children in the summer.
Regrettably, some of these children are difficult to reach due to federal rules: most sites must be in areas with 50% of poverty or greater in order to access federally funded meals. We may never reach 100%. However, if Nebraska were to reach just 40% of children eligible for free and reduced price school meals during the summer, 34,812 more children would have nutritious meals and our state would receive $2,335,710 in additional federal reimbursements.
Fortunately, Nebraska is in a position to reach more children with summer meals. The federal Healthy, Hunger Free Kids Act of 2010 decreased paperwork requirements to make it easier for sponsoring non-profit organizations to implement programs. Further, we do have nonprofit organizations, schools, and other entities that are willing to play their part.
LB 1090 would provide resources to such organizations to help them overcome one-time barriers to starting up or expanding a Summer Food Service Program. Grants provided by the Department of Education would allow for purchase of freezers or other infrastructure needed or provide opportunities for outreach or cover other start up costs. Funds to overcome these simple barriers will position Nebraska organizations to start up Summer Food Service Programs that can leverage federal funds for meals into the future.
LB 1090 provides modest, one-time funds to help organizations establish greater capacity to serve hungry children federally funded meals in the summer. We urge your support of this important legislation.