According to the Food Research and Action Center, nearly 1 in 4 U.S. households with children faced food hardship in 2009, lacking enough money to buy needed food at some point during the year. SNAP/food stamps, the Summer Food Service Program, and other federal nutrition programs provide a vital defense against hunger for millions families across the country.
Summer Food Service Program
As summer heats up across the nation, NLC is working with the U.S. Department of Agriculture's (USDA) Food & Nutrition Service to raise awareness about the Summer Food Service Program. When school is not in session during the summer months, many children and teens who rely on school meals are at a higher risk of going hungry. During the school year, more than 21 million children receive free and reduced priced breakfasts and lunches through the School Breakfast and National School Lunch Programs. Yet when school lets out, only slightly more than 3 million receive a meal through a summer program.
The Summer Food Service Program is designed to fill that nutrition gap and make sure children can get the nutritious meals they need. City leaders can use a Summer Food Service Program Outreach Toolkit developed by the USDA to connect children and youth with healthy meals at parks, recreation centers, community centers, housing projects, schools, summer programs and other feeding sites in low-income communities.
Families can call the National Hunger Hotline at 1-866-3-HUNGRY or 1-877-8-HAMBRE to find Summer Food Service Program sites where their children can go to receive a nutritious meal and cities can encourage sites to register with the hotline. Program sponsors and sites that rely on volunteers to make their programs successful are encouraged to post volunteer opportunities at www.serve.gov/endhunger. Additional resources can be found at www.summerfood.usda.gov.
Food Stamp Outreach
The Food Research and Action Center (FRAC) reports that SNAP/Food Stamp participation rose to a record 44.5 million - or 1 in 7 - Americans in March 2011. Participation increased by 27.6 million from a decade ago. Nonetheless, gaps in participation remain, with an estimated 1 in 3 eligible Americans going unserved.
City leaders can assist struggling families in their communities by spearheading outreach campaigns that connect residents with nutrition benefits for which they are eligible. When mayors, city councilmembers, and other municipal leaders spread the word about help for working families through well-designed outreach campaigns, they do more than help families. They bring millions of federal and state dollars into the community, thereby strengthening neighborhoods and spurring local economic development.
A toolkit on developed by FRAC can help local officials learn strategies for ensuring local residents are able to access these benefits.
SNAP/Food Stamps Outreach and Access Toolkit (PDF)