The Food Research and Action Center (FRAC) ranks Missouri 42nd out of all 50 states on its annual summer meals report. Of the 363,000 Missouri kids eligible, 33,000 received summer meals in 2016. That’s an increase of more than 7% from 2015 but the report also says ten of 11 Missouri students who have access to school meals did not get free summer meals.
At the national level, after four years of significant growth, FRAC’s report shows the number of kids fed in the summer of 2016 slipped by 4.8% from the record total fed in 2015. The report says 3 million kids, out of 20 million eligible children, were fed in July 2016.
Lack of transportation and promoting of such programs could contribute to low turnouts.
“Summer meals help children, their families and the community,” says Glenn Koenen, Hunger Task Force chair for social welfare group Empower Missouri. “As the weather heats up, food pantries across the state struggle to replace the free food kids get at school.”
The St. Louis area Operation Food Search is using special vans to deliver free meals to children in neighborhoods that do not have permanent meal sites. Food is provided at local summer sites like schools, recreation centers, libraries, churches, clubs and parks for children ages 18 and under. Some of the places also include activities that prepare kids for the classroom in the fall.
The cost of the meals is paid by the U.S. Department of Agriculture through two state departments: the Department of Elementary and Secondary Education and the Department of Health and Senior Services.
FRAC wants Missouri to reach for a goal of 40 children receiving summer meals in July 2017 for every 100 receiving free or reduced-price lunch during the 2015-16 school year. According to Empower Missouri, that would lead to an additional 144,511 children being fed each day and an additional $8 million in federal dollars that Missouri could collect from child nutrition funding in July (assuming the programs operate for 20 days).