Most students unaware of free summer meals

USDA raising awareness of summer food program

KANSAS CITY, Mo - Many students on free school lunches don’t realize they’re also eligible for meals over summer break.  The USDA is trying to raise awareness about its Summer Food Service Program.

Students can eat healthy meals at summer schools as well as at some libraries, day camps and churches.

The program is free for all children if it’s in an area considered low income. According to the USDA, only about 15 percent of eligible students participate nationwide and the numbers are even lower in Kansas City communities.

“In the Kansas City area, it's about 11 percent of the children who are eligible actually participate in the program.  So there's a wide opportunity to increase participation,” Audrey Rowe, USDA Food & Nutrition Service Administrator, said.

To find out if your child is eligible, call the National Hunger Hotline at 866-3-HUNGRY (866-348-6479).

Bill Could Change School Food

Healthier food options could go away for some students. A bill in Congress, that just passed a House committee, would let some schools opt out of nutrition requirements.

“I'm really disappointed. I'm disappointed in our politicians,” Rowe said. “The program is working. What people forget is we have an obesity epidemic in this country and many of the children who are overweight today are going to be facing some real health issues over their lifetime.”

Critics say the new program is too expensive and some students aren’t even eating the healthier meals.

“You know, this was not going to be easy and we did not say this was going to be easy, given the meals that children had before,” said Rowe. "Ninety percent of the schools are in compliance. Now we have made, we have worked with schools, we have listened, we have made changes in terms of waivers and giving more time for schools to implement.”

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