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Education


Food banks aim to combat summer hunger
Many students who receive free lunch during the school year do not return for summer food programs
Story by AMY HANSEN


 
Free or reduced school lunches can be important for low income families, but many do not know that similar food assistance is available in the summer.
Courtesy of U.S. Dept. of Agriculture
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The beginning of summer may mean a break from homework and studying, but for many students, it can also mark the beginning of a long stretch without daily, school-provided meals. One of the state's biggest organizations is working to combat summer hunger.

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“People think of the summer as a time to relax and vacation,” says the Ohio Association of Foodbanks’ Executive Director Lisa Hamler-Fugitt. “When school’s closed for the school year, childhood hunger increases in our state.”

Hamler-Fugitt says one of the ways her organization is working to combat that problem is by increasing awareness of the federally-funded Summer Food Service Program, where kids can grab a bite to eat at various program sites across the state. 

Each site is sponsored by a community organization, such as a school or a city recreation department. There is more than 100 new sites this year, bringing the total to about 1,700 in Ohio.

Hamler-Fugitt says offering kids a chance to eat a nutritious meal when school’s out can be a lifesaver for low-income families.

“Communities know that childhood hunger is a significant problem for low-income families and their children,” she says. “It provides an opportunity to meet the most basic of all human needs, food.”

Out of the state’s more than 633,000 students who received free or reduced-price meals every day while in school last year, only around 10 percent participated in the daily summer meal program, according to a report released by the Food Research and Action Center.

Hamler-Fugitt says she hopes the addition of both extra AmeriCorp staff members and the new food sites across the state will help to increase participation this summer.

The Ohio Department of Education helps to facilitate the program, and they have put together a searchable map you can visit here.

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