FOR IMMEDIATE RELEASE
Contact: Sara McGovern, firstname.lastname@example.org, 202-640-1089
Baltimore, Md. – July 17, 2014 –Advocates and anti-hunger organizations from across the state of Maryland joined together this week to urge Maryland’s Congressional delegation to cosponsor the Summer Meals Act of 2014, a bipartisan bill that would strengthen, protect, and expand access to the Summer Nutrition Programs.
Throughout the state of Maryland, more than 250,000 low-income students rely on the National School Lunch Program during the school year, and summer often means losing access to this dependable source of nutritious food. The Summer Food Service Program (SFSP) is designed to fill this nutrition gap by providing students with healthy meals when school is not in session at sites across the state. However, while an average of 268,006 Maryland children participate in school lunch programs every day during the school year, only 50,902 participated in the SFSP last year.
“Summer meal programs help to reduce childhood hunger and combat childhood obesity experienced by low-income children over the summer months, and support educational and enrichment programs that keep children learning, engaged, and safe when school is not in session,” said Michael J. Wilson, director of Maryland Hunger Solutions. “Passing the Summer Meals Act would allow more Maryland children to benefit from these programs, and I urge every Member of the Maryland Congressional delegation to cosponsor this legislation.”
The bill expands access to summer meal sites by changing program area eligibility from 50 to 40 percent. Currently, a site can only qualify to serve summer meals if 50 percent or more of local children are eligible for free or reduced price school meals. This change will allow communities with significant numbers of low-income children, but not a high enough concentration of poverty, to participate. The bill would also allow sites to serve three meals a day — a huge improvement for those sites that provide care and programming all day long.
“We know that children who get healthy meals three times a day are better able to learn and grow. Children should not have to worry about where they will be getting their next meal,” said Jonathon Rondeau, President and CEO of the Family League of Baltimore. “While Baltimore’s children do get access to three meals during the school year, that is not always the case in the summer. We need to eliminate federal barriers to each child having access to three meals a day.”
Another barrier to summer meal programs, lack of transportation, is addressed in the Summer Meals Act. Many students have difficulties getting to summer meal sites, especially in rural areas. The bill provides transportation grants for underserved communities to fund alternative approaches to nutrition, such as mobile meal delivery. The Summer Meals Act also strengthens SFSP by allowing sites to serve three meals per day, ensuring that students get the nutrition they need.
The letter urges the Maryland Congressional delegation to cosponsor the Summer Meals Act and work toward passing this legislation to ensure that low-income children throughout the state of Maryland and across the nation have access to healthy meals during the summer. The full text of the letter is available here.