Summer is an exciting time for many children. For food insecure households, families face the prospect of providing more food when school is out, further constraining already-tight budgets. Food Law and Policy clinical student Tommy Tobin (HLS, JD ’16) recently authored an op-ed about summer meal programs in North Carolina.
When school is in session, the USDA school lunch program provides much-needed food assistance to low-income children. Unfortunately, the summer months find many of these students with limited access to nutritionally-adequate food.
USDA’s Summer Food Service Program attempts to fight food insecurity over the summer. Unfortunately, participation in the program is woefully inadequate in many states, including North Carolina.
In 2014, the Center for Health Law and Policy Innovation found that North Carolina’s participation rate was “extremely low” and recommended that the participation in the program be expanded as part of an overall policy strategy to target diabetes prevention and improve health outcomes in the state.
In his op-ed, Tobin argues that: “Officials estimate that in 2014 over 820,000 children in North Carolina were eligible for summer meals programs under federal guidelines. For these students, a lack of regular access to nutritious food can contribute to falling behind in school. Feeding hungry kids in the state should be a priority, but unfortunately these programs are not reaching over 675,000 of North Carolina’s youngest residents.”
Fortunately, new efforts have increased participation in the summer program by 30% in just one year. Increased collaboration between government, non-profits, and foodservice partners has the potential to yield positive results for low-income children and their families.