Less than one in six low-income children in Indiana who needs summer meals is receiving them, according to a national report, Hunger Doesn’t Take A Vacation, released today by the Food Research & Action Center. In July 2015, 78,858 low-income children received summer meals in Indiana, a decrease of 7.5 percent from the previous summer. The Child Nutrition

Reauthorization currently being considered by Congress provides an important opportunity to invest in the Summer Nutrition Programs so that more children return to school in the fall, well-nourished and ready to learn.

“It’s troubling to see that a growing number of children across our state are still missing out on the benefits of summer nutrition programs,” said Emily Weikert Bryant of Feeding Indiana’s Hungry. “We are working to reverse this trend this summer by engaging in aggressive outreach to raise awareness of summer meals with the Indiana Department of Education and many nonprofit and local partners across the state. The Summer Nutrition Programs can make a huge difference for the hundreds of thousands of children in our state whose families struggle to afford enough food.”

The report is an annual analysis of data that measures the success of Summer Nutrition Programs at the national and state levels by comparing the number of children receiving summer meals to the number of low-income children receiving free or reduced-price school lunches during the regular school year. The school lunch data are a good proxy number for the extent of need in each state. By this measure, 18.4 low-income children in Indiana ate summer meals for every 100 who ate school lunch during the regular school year. Nationally, the ratio was 15.8:100, down from last year’s ratio of 16.2:100.

There is still much room for improvement in Indiana. Low participation means missed meals for children and missed dollars for the state. If Indiana had reached 40 children with summer food for every 100 low-income children who get school lunch during the regular school year, Indiana would have fed an additional 92,924 low-income children every day in July 2015 and brought in $7,334,032 more federal dollars to do so.

“Greater participation in summer food means more low-income children get the fuel they need to thrive over the summer months,” said FRAC President Jim Weill. “That reduces hunger, boosts health, reduces obesity, and keeps children primed to learn. Congress can better meet the need through the pending Child Nutrition Reauthorization by making strategic and thoughtful investments in the Summer Nutrition Programs that bolster their capacity to serve even more children.”

The Summer Nutrition Programs, which include the Summer Food Service Program and the National School Lunch Program in the summer months, should be filling the food gap for the thousands of low-income Hoosier children who rely on school breakfast and lunch during the school year to help keep hunger at bay. These programs provide free meals at participating summer sites at schools, parks, other public agencies, and nonprofits for children under 18. Not only do children benefit from the free meals, but they also benefit from the enrichment activities that keep them learning and engaged. The best way to meet children’s needs over the summer is with healthy meals that are served in positive community environments while the children’s parents are working.

Hoosier families can find nearby summer meal sites at http://www.doe.in.gov/nutrition/sfsp-parents-page, by calling 211 or texting FOOD to 877-877.

About the report:

Data for Indiana come from the June 2016 version of the annual report released by the Food Research & Action Center (FRAC), the lead advocacy organization working to end hunger in America through stronger public policies. The FRAC report, Hunger Doesn’t Take a Vacation, gives 2014 and 2015 data for every state and looks at national and state trends. FRAC measures summer participation during the month of July, when typically almost all children are out of school throughout the month and lose access to regular school year meals. The report is available online at www.frac.org.