The number of lower-income children with access to free summer meals is down nationwide, but New England states are doing better than most.
Crystal FitzSimons, director of school and out-of-school-time programs at the Food Research and Action Center, which tracks summer meal programs across the country, said one reason more Massachusetts children received summer meals last July compared with the summer before is because the state saw a 4.4 percent increase in the number of food sites available to children.
Overall, she said, Massachusetts ranked 15th nationwide for how well it performed in getting free meals to lower-income children during the summer months.
“They had a 5 percent increase in participation last year, which is about 3,000 kids,” FitzSimons said. “So they are moving in the right direction, but could be serving more kids.”
One goal of the Food Research and Action Center is to see at least 40 children receive summer meals for every 100 who get free or reduced-price meals during the school year. Massachusetts lags in that department with only 18 children out of 100 getting the free summer meals.
FitzSimons said summer programs deliver a double punch, because they reduce childhood hunger and help ensure that children return to school ready to learn.
“Kids come to the programs because of the great summer programming that’s happening, and for the meals as well,” she said. “And one of the big challenges that we have is there is not enough funding for summer programs in low income communities, and for low income kids.”
The report identified the 21st Century Community Learning Centers as the largest federal funding source for summer and after-school programs. It said the Trump administration has proposed defunding the program entirely for 2018.
Via Commonwealth News Service