A report released June 13 by the Food Research and Action Center (FRAC) confirms that Vermont continues to be a national leader in the fight to end childhood hunger, especially during the summer months when free school meals are not available. With outreach and assistance from Hunger Free Vermont, Vermont is one of the six states recognized for having strong participation in both summer breakfast and summer lunch.
The “Hunger Doesn’t Take a Vacation” report shows that Vermont has maintained its national ranking at no. 3 in serving kids summer meals, with an average daily participation of 9,041 — a 3 percent increase in average daily participation over summer 2015. It also shows that Vermont’s summer breakfast participation grew, now ranking 10th in average daily participation of summer breakfasts. Meanwhile, average daily participation in summer meals on the national scale has gone down, with 3 million children getting summer meals—4.8 percent fewer than were served in the previous summer.
The national Summer Food Service Program (SFSP) has seen consistent growth over the past decade in Vermont among low-income children despite declining overall school enrollment. In just the last six years, the number of summer programs serving meals has grown by 79 percent.
Many summer meal sites struggle to cover added costs such as transportation, site supervision and enrichment programming. “The rural nature of our state presents unique challenges for sponsors who provide summer meals to children,” said Marissa Parisi, executive director at Hunger Free Vermont. “While USDA child nutrition programs provide critical funding for these efforts, communities must be very resourceful in stretching those dollars to maximum effect and identifying other funding sources to cover shortfalls.”