Over 2 million (84 percent) of the children in California who benefitted from federally funded school meals during the academic year were not served by the federal summer meal programs in 2011. The report, School’s Out…Who Ate?, authored by California Food Policy Advocates* (CFPA), ties the elimination of summer school to the loss of affordable, nutritious meals for low-income children.
CFPA’s analysis of data provided by the California Department of Education shows that participation in federal summer meal programs has decreased by over 50 percent in just under a decade. That downward trend is driven largely by a decline in meals served by summer schools.
Beyond children’s health and development, the loss of summer meals also impacts the bottom line. As reported by the Food Research and Action Center, in Hunger Doesn’t Take a Vacation, California missed out on an estimated $34 million in federal funding due to low participation in summer nutrition programs during July of 2011.
School’s Out… Who Ate? includes an analysis of county-level data. In July 2011, 17% and 12% of the low-income children in Contra Costa and Solano counties who participated in free or reduced-price school meal programs during the academic year were served by summer meal programs. This means Contra Costa and Solano counties has the 9th and 13th highest summer meal participation rate among California’s 58 counties.
Across the state, the federal summer meal programs reach fewer children each year and many families continue to struggle in this tough economy. Policymakers at all levels should take action to mend the widening summer nutrition gap faced by millions of low-income children in California.
*California Food Policy Advocates is a statewide policy and advocacy organization dedicated to improving the health and well-being of low-income Californians by increasing their access to nutritious, affordable food.