More PA Children Accessing Summer Meals “But Not Enough”
Friday, June 5, 2015
HARRISBURG, Pa. - More low-income children are in feeding programs over the summer, but about 80 percent of those who qualify in Pennsylvania are not.
A new report from the Food Research and Action Center found about 200,000 more low-income American children were in the programs in 2014 than in 2013.
The rate of increase was even faster in Pennsylvania, but Kathy Fisher, policy manager for the Greater Philadelphia Coalition Against Hunger, said the key number is 20 percent - the portion of qualifying children being fed in the state. She said that's enough to rank Pennsylvania 12th in the nation, but still pretty low.
"The nation improved, but Pennsylvania improved enough to move up in the rankings," she said. "That number also revealed we're serving about one in five eligible kids. So four of five eligible kids remain not accessing summer meals."
Fisher said the number of children in the feeding programs increased in part because many more sites are offering the meals in Philadelphia and Pittsburgh. She said her organization would like to see some of the creative ways folks have found to set up the sites spread to the more suburban and rural parts of the state. For instance, Fisher said, individual families have gotten together with their neighbors to set up neighborhood feeding sites.
"On the small side streets, they can kind of shut down the block for lunch time, and kids can eat," she said. "They can come play and eat. We'd love for that to be used elsewhere."
Fisher said the summer meals can be a good way to keep low-income children engaged in their education and keep them from losing ground over the hot months. Plus, she said, some families fall into food insecurity without the help of school meals.
"We can kind of picture summer as, 'Oh, it's great time for kids, they get to go run around with their friends,' " she said. "But for some kids, if there's not enough in terms of meals, it certainly doesn't power their bodies so they can run around and have a fun summer."
A little more than 16 percent of American schoolchildren who qualify for free or low-cost lunches also are accessing summer meals through feeding programs.
The report is online at frac.org.
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