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Hunger Doesn't Take a Vacation

A new report by the Food Research and Action Center (FRAC) indicates a decline in participation in summer feeding programs in 2022. On an average day in July 2022, almost 3 million children received lunch through summer nutrition programs, and just over 1.8 million children received breakfast. Although this level was higher than July 2019, it was notably lower than the following two Julys.

The report compares summer meal participation among states by analyzing average lunch participation in July against the average free or reduced-price lunch participation during the school year. In 2022, every state experienced a decrease in daily summer lunch participation compared to July 2021. The states with the highest participation in 2022 were New Jersey, New York, Vermont, New Mexico, and Maryland.

FRAC has a goal of reaching 40 children with summer lunch for every 100 children who received free or reduced-price lunch during the school year. While nine states and the District of Columbia achieved this goal in 2021, none did in 2022.

The drop in meal participation in 2022 is attributed to Congress' delay in approving summer meal waivers that expanded access to grab-and-go meals and other options. These waivers were not available until the end of June 2022, making it challenging for summer meal programs to utilize them. Additionally, the number of Summer Food Service Program (SFSP) sponsors and sites decreased, likely due to the delay in approving the waivers.

FRAC recommends that Congress pass legislation to expand summer meal access and increase participation in the coming years. The Summer Meals Reaching Every Area's Child Hunger (Summer Meals REACH) Act aims to make certain summer meal program flexibilities permanent, including eliminating the low-income threshold required to operate a summer meal site.

Another recent FRAC report revealed that school meal participation in the country's largest school districts slipped after schools returned to charging for meals following the pandemic.



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