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Stopping Hunger and Improving Nutrition When School is Out

In February of last year, I spoke at the National Press Club and outlined a vision and path for improving the health and well-being of kids across the nation by enhancing our nutrition assistance programs. I made a commitment that the Department of Agriculture (USDA) would continue to help bridge the nutrition gap when school is out because our efforts to combat hunger and improve nutrition cannot end when the school bell rings on the last day of the school week or year.

More children report going hungry during the summer – when we see a significant drop in participation in our programs.  Working with local governments, nonprofit organizations and community groups, we are changing that.  Yesterday, I was happy to announce the recipients of grants to improve the delivery of nutrition assistance to low-income children during the summer months.

We know that to tackle the duel problems of hunger and obesity, we must harness the creativity of our partners on the ground. This funding will go to test alternative ways to enable children from low-income households to access healthy food during the summer and will boost participation in the Summer Food Service Program (SFSP).

Sixteen sponsors in Arizona, Ohio and Kansas were selected implement the Food Backpacks demonstration project.  They will begin providing food backpacks to about 75 children per week. The backpacks, which will be distributed on Thursdays, will contain three days worth of shelf-stable breakfast and lunch foods such as milk, juices, canned fruits and vegetables, tuna, and individual canned entrees.

Grants for the Home Delivery demonstration project were awarded to four sponsors in New York, Massachusetts and Delaware. This project will provide funding to develop ways to deliver summer meals to eligible children in rural areas at a sustainable cost. For example, the Cape Cod YMCA will develop delivery routes in rural Barnstable, Mass., and will deliver up to two days worth of breakfast and lunch meals to about 100 children each day. The meals will include a variety of nutritious foods including low-fat milk, locally grown fruits and vegetables and fresh or frozen entrees that are easy to prepare.

With support from vital partners in our communities we can deliver on our commitment and make sure that healthy foods are available during gap periods like the summer months.

For more information on the SFSP Home Delivery and Food Backpacks Demonstration Projects click here.