FRAC’s Hunger Doesn’t Take a Vacation: Summer Nutrition Status Report reveals 90,846 children in Maryland received a lunch, and 89,393 children received a breakfast on an average day in July 2022 — a decrease of almost 13 percent of children participating in lunch, and almost 30 percent participating in breakfast compared to July 2021.
The decline in participation follows a remarkable two-year run of summer meal participation in 2020 and 2021 in Maryland, which was made possible by child nutrition waivers issued by the U.S. Department of Agriculture. These waivers allowed summer meal sites to operate in every community and provided meal program sponsors with the flexibilities needed to maintain children’s access to breakfast and lunch during the COVID-19 public health crisis. Although waivers were technically available for summer 2022, Congress did not extend the waivers until late June, making it difficult for many sponsors to utilize them. This delay, combined with program staffing shortages, supply chain disruptions, and many meal sites shuttering as a result of the pandemic, led to fewer children receiving a summer lunch in 2022.
“The last three summers have provided a key introspection into the Summer Nutrition Programs and the role they can and should play,” said Michael J. Wilson, Director, Maryland Hunger Solutions. “As momentum grows for Healthy School Meals for All during the school year, it is critical that the same attention is given to the summer months, which is often a time of increased food insecurity for children, especially for those from households with low incomes.”
“While Maryland has ranked among the top-performing states for summer nutrition program participation, we haven’t done enough. More must be done to ensure all children across the state have access to nutritional resources during summer break.”
The decrease in participation comes at a time when the Summer Nutrition Programs are changing. In December 2022, federal legislation created a permanent program that will provide an Electronic Benefit Transfer (EBT) card to purchase food during the summer months to families eligible for free or reduced-price school meals, extending the summer benefits families have received through the Pandemic EBT Program. This approach offers an important strategy to reduce summer hunger and overcome many of the transportation and timing barriers that summer meals sites can face. The legislation also allows non-congregate meal service in underserved rural areas. Summer EBT is an important complement to the provision of summer meals, and these approaches, along with the long-standing congregate meal sites that often offer meals and educational enrichment, help fill the summer nutrition gap that too many families experience in Maryland.
“As we work to ensure that all children have access to nutrition during the summer, providing summer meals in combination with educational and enrichment programming should remain the gold standard,” said Wilson. “More needs to be done to ensure more children in Maryland get the nutrition as well as the educational and social and emotional support they need during the summer. After all, summer should be a special time for children to play, learn, and grow without the worry of going hungry.”
Maryland Hunger Solutions recommends action in Maryland and at the federal level to improve summer meals access, including urging Congress to support strategies that expand access to summer meals when Child Nutrition Reauthorization is revisited, and encouraging meal providers across the state to adopt best practices for increasing the reach of these programs.
“With greater investments, more children can experience a summer free from hunger and can return to the new school year healthy and ready to learn,” said Wilson.
Read the full report.
About Maryland Hunger Solutions
Maryland Hunger Solutions works to end hunger and improve the nutrition, health, and well-being of children and families in Maryland.
About The Food Research & Action Center
The Food Research & Action Center improves the nutrition, health, and well-being of people struggling against poverty-related hunger in the United States through advocacy, partnerships, and by advancing bold and equitable policy solutions. To learn more, visit FRAC.org and follow us on Twitter, Facebook, and Instagram.