WASHINGTON, June 13, 2017 — After four years of significant growth, national participation in the Summer Nutrition Programs decreased last summer, according to the Food Research & Action Center’s (FRAC) annual Hunger Doesn’t Take a Vacation: Summer Nutrition Status Report, released today. During July 2016, the programs served 3 million children across the country — 4.8 percent fewer children than were served in the previous summer.

“Summer meals play a critical role in closing the hunger gap and supporting summer programs, keeping low-income children healthy, learning, and engaged during summer vacation,” said FRAC President Jim Weill. “Clearly, more must be done to close this gap to reduce hunger, fight obesity, and reduce the summer ‘learning slide’ for millions of our nation’s children. Greater investments at the federal, state, and local levels are needed to support improved access to nutritious meals and high quality summer programming for low-income children.”

The report measures the success of the Summer Nutrition Programs, which include the Summer Food Service Program and the National School Lunch Program in summer months, at the national and state levels. Success is measured both in absolute numbers and by comparing the number of children receiving summer meals to the number of low-income children receiving school lunch during the regular school year. By the latter measure, only 1 in 7 children (15 to 100) who needed summer nutrition received it in 2016.

If every state reached FRAC’s ambitious, but achievable, goal of 40 children receiving summer meals for every 100 receiving free or reduced-price lunch during the 2015–2016 school year, an additional 5.1 million children would have been fed each day and states would have collected an additional $373 million in child nutrition funding in July alone (assuming the programs operated 20 weekdays).

Summer meals are provided at local sites, such as schools, recreation centers, libraries, YMCAs, Boys & Girls Clubs, churches, and parks for children ages 18 and under. Not only do children stave off hunger as a result of free summer meals, they also benefit from the enrichment activities offered at the vast majority of sites — activities that keep them learning, engaged and better prepared to return to the classroom in the fall.

While many states saw decreases in participation from July 2015 to July 2016, 22 states grew participation, with eight growing by 10 percent or more, largely as a result of strong outreach efforts by state agencies and partner organizations.

“Through creative partnerships and increased outreach efforts, we can increase participation among low-income children in the Summer Nutrition Programs and ensure every child has a hunger-free summer,” said Weill.

# # #

About the report: The Food Research & Action Center’s annual summer report, Hunger Doesn’t Take a Vacation: Summer Nutrition Status Report, gives data for all states and looks at national trends. The report measures participation in the Summer Nutrition Programs by comparing the number of children receiving summer meals to the number of low-income children receiving school lunch during the regular school year. The regular school year is used as a measure because such a high proportion of low-income children eat school lunch on regular school days. FRAC measures national summer participation during the month of July, when typically all children are out of school throughout the month and lose access to regular year school meals.