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Only One in Seven Eligible Kids Get Free Lunch in the Summer. What’s Going Wrong?

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Children eat breakfast at the start of a day camp program at Casa Juan Diego St. Pius V Youth Center on June 24th, 2009, in Chicago. The center provides free breakfast and lunch to about 90 children a day.

It’s lunchtime at a new affordable housing complex in Goleta, a city in California’s central coast. Kids trickle into the community center in trios or pairs—some with parents, others with siblings. On the last Friday in June, the center resembles a school cafeteria turned summer camp: Two volunteers, both parents who live in the nearby apartments, hand out meals from giant coolers. Kids wrestle outside on the astroturf, next to a pastel-colored playground. Inside, a first-grader alternates between taking bites of biscuit and putting the finishing touches on a Finding Dory-themed coloring page.

This is where many of the neighborhood’s low-income children come to bridge the gap between June and August, when they can no longer get free breakfast and lunch at school. In Santa Barbara County, one in every four kids are food insecure—and research shows they’re more likely to go hungry in the summer, meaning they’re also at higher risk of resultant harmful health conditions and losing educational progress made during the school year.

The federal program intended to address this problem, the Summer Food Service Program, reimburses food banks, school districts, and other non-profit sponsors for the cost of each meal. Anyone under 18 is eligible to attend a site, which are located in areas where half the kids are low-income. Kids do not need to provide any form of identification to get a meal.

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Thanks !

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