Too Few Kids Particating in Summer Meal Programs, Study Shows

(KCPW News) Hunger doesn’t take a vacation, says a new report, and many low-income kids in the state know that too well as school lunch programs end and summer begins. According to an annual report from the Food Research and Action Center, only 16 percent of Utah children who participate in a school lunch program participated in the summer program last year.  Gina Cornia, Executive Director of Utahns Against Hunger, says that number is actually up slightly from the previous year, but too few low-income kids are benefiting from summer meals.

“The economy has had an impact because there are school districts who can’t afford to pay staff or they’re on nine month contracts so they decide not to operate the program during the summer months. Then those kids lose access to that program.”

Cornia says areas of southern Utah like San Juan County lost federal funding for summer meal programs. She adds there are gaps all along the Salt Lake Valley. Cornia says people may not know that unlike the school program, the summer program is not income dependent, which she says removes any participation barriers or stigma.

“While it’s targeted to low income kids, any kid who shows up who’s 18 or younger can get a lunch. They don’t have to show identification. They don’t have to show proof of need. They can just show up and eat.”

Summer sites are operated out of parks, playgrounds, recreation programs and some schools. The Utah Office of Education is always looking for site sponsors.