According to the Arkansas Department of Human Services, less than 15 percent of children who qualify for free or reduced-priced school lunches in Arkansas are getting nutritious meals in the summer.
Though the summer will soon come to a close, efforts are ramping up to encourage local organizations to join the Summer Food Service Program.
Kevin Concannon is the undersecretary for USDA Food, Nutrition, and Consumer Services.
“Nationally and in Arkansas we are seeing increased numbers of sites where children can go for summer feeding,” Concannon said. “Across the country, there are now 42,000 locations this summer providing summer meals for students and they are in school attendance areas where there are high percentages of low-income children.”
Arkansas is one of five states that have increased the number of summer food service sites with support from the USDA and state officials.
Concannon says different public and nonprofit organizations can qualify to be a Summer Food Service Program site to ensure children who miss meals, due to poverty, get the food they need.
Concannon admits children in Arkansas should not go hungry just because school is out.
“There are still literally millions of kids across the country who don’t do so well over the course of the summer and their teachers and the research tells us when those kids back to school in the fall they don’t do so well if they’ve had a summer of uncertainty. Will there be supper tonight or not?” said Concannon. “To the extent that we can make sure [kids] have routine access to healthy foods, they’ll do better both from a health point of view and a learning point of view.”
Concannon says the program is 100 percent federally funded and covers the cost of up to three nutritious meals and snacks a day for Arkansas children. Click here to learn how to become a Summer Food Service Program site.
Officials with the Arkansas Hunger Relief Alliance report afterschool meals programs are extremely important to fighting hunger in the state. The Alliance has developed the No Kid Hungry Afterschool Meals Program page to help potential sponsors navigate the Department of Human Services application process.