When children are no longer in school during the summer, many lose access to the meals they eat through their school meals programs. To remedy this, the Summer Food Service Program (SFSP) and the National School Lunch Program (NSLP), which are run by local government agencies, nonprofit organizations, or school sponsored programs, distribute either two meals or a meal and a snack a day. NETWORK supports continued funding of these programs, which act to serve children during a time of greatest need.
Despite the existence of these programs, children are still the most vulnerable to hunger during the summer. Six out of seven children who receive free or reduced lunch during the school year will not receive summer meals. The summer nutrition programs are already not reaching many of the children who need them, and a recent FRAC report suggests that the programs are becoming less effective. In July 2011 only 14.6% of low-income children who received school meals participated in summer nutrition programs, which is a considerable decrease from 17.3% in July 2008. The current summer nutrition programs are not sufficient for meeting the needs of children. Each summer, funding for meals which could be available for children are not used. Programs in churches and community centers – even one or two week programs – are eligible to provide meals during the times they are active. There is a need for greater advertising of this program to keep children healthy in the summers.