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Why Summer Meals?


Summer is like no other season in that the memories it creates last a lifetime. But for many of California’s low-income children, summer vacation presents a reality that is far from idyllic. It presents a break in the continuity, structure, and safety of the school year. It often means limited opportunities to participate in learning and enrichment programs. But more important, summer may bring with it a struggle to have basic needs met by limiting access to at least one daily, healthy meal and safe places to be active.

A 2012 report from the National Summer Learning Association highlights the links between food insecurity, childhood obesity, and the achievement gap:

  • Food insecurity increases during the summer break without access to the nutrition provided by the National School Lunch Program.

  • Children may gain weight two to three times faster during the summer than during the school year.

  • Low-income youth may fall further behind in academic skills during the summer break, experiencing greater “summer learning loss” than their higher-income peers and widening the achievement gap.

  • Nutrition education interventions that exclusively target the school environment may be less impactful because weight gain happens primarily outside of school.

The U.S. Department of Agriculture’s summer nutrition programs (Summer Food Service Program / Seamless Summer Feeding Option) enable school districts and other eligible community-based organizations to offer free, healthy meals to children and youth in low-income neighborhoods. They can also link children with summertime activities and safe places to play.

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