With School Year Coming to a Close, Brown Outlines Vital Nutrition Assistance Program to Ensure Needy Students Don't Go Hungry in Summer Months

More Than 40 Percent of Ohio Students Qualify for Free or Reduced-Price School Lunches; Last Year, Summer Food Service Program Operated at More Than 1,500 Sites Across Ohio

June 6-10 is National Summer Food Service Program Week; Brown Releases County-by-County Report on Percentage of Students That Qualify For Free or Reduced-Price Lunches, List of Summer Feeding Sites in Ohio

WASHINGTON, D.C.—With the school year coming to a close—and with a record two out of every five Ohio students qualifying for free or reduced-price school lunches—U.S. Sen. Sherrod Brown (D-OH) held a news conference call today to discuss the Summer Food Service Program (SFSP). The SFSP, which operated at more than 1,500 sites across Ohio last year, ensures that students who depend on nutrition assistance through the school lunch program don’t go hungry during summer months. Lisa Hamler-Fugitt, executive director of the Ohio Association of Second Harvest Foodbanks, joined Brown to discuss the importance of the SFSP.

“School may be letting out for the summer—but sadly, hunger is a year-round problem in Ohio. For too many of Ohio’s children, the summer break from school can also mean a summer break from good nutrition. More than two out of every five Ohio students now qualifies for a reduced-price or free lunch. That’s a statistic that says so much about the number of families still struggling to get by—and how children are often helpless victims in a challenging economy,” Brown said. “Summer Food Service ensures that needy students don’t go hungry during the summer months, and continue to have access to nutritious meals even when school is closed. We must do more not only to bring more summer feeding sites within reach to more Ohio families, but to ensure that these families are made aware of this important program that will provide their children with free, healthy meals all summer long.”

On the call, Brown released a county-by-county report on the percentage of Ohio students that qualify for free or reduced-price lunches, as well as a list of summer feeding sites in Ohio. A clickable map of those sites can also be found here. Last year, Ohio had 1,456 summer feeding sites; this year, just over 1,000 have been approved, though more could be added. To date, 33 Ohio counties have no summer feeding site: Belmont, Brown, Carroll, Champaign, Clinton, Fulton, Gallia, Geauga, Guernsey, Harrison, Henry, Highland, Hocking, Holmes, Jackson, Meigs, Mercer, Monroe, Morgan, Morrow, Noble, Ottawa, Paulding, Preble, Putnam, Richland, Shelby, Trumbull, Tuscarawas, Union, Vinton, Williams, and Wyandot.

According to recent data from the National School Lunch Program, part of the USDA, more than 825,000 Ohio students received free or reduced-price lunches last year. Of those students participating in the program, 716,084 received free lunches and 109,385 received reduced-price lunches. The National School Lunch Program provides free, nutritious meals to children from families with incomes at or below 130 percent of the poverty level and reduced-price lunches between 130 percent and 185 percent of the poverty level.

The SFSP provides free, nutritious meals and snacks to help children in low-income areas get the nutrition they need throughout the summer months when they are out of school. The SFSP is administered by the Ohio Department of Education (ODE) and is run locally by approved sponsors, including school districts, local government agencies, camps, or private nonprofit organizations. In January, Brown convened a statewide forum at the Mid-Ohio Foodbank aimed at addressing the SFSP. Brown convened the summit to ensure more children can receive nutrition assistance during the summer months.

Last November, the USDA released new data showing nearly one in seven Ohio families to be “food insecure,” placing Ohio 8th in the nation for food insecurity. According to the USDA, the term “food security” refers to “assured access to enough food for an active, healthy life” and for that food to be nutritious, safe, and easily obtainable through normal channels.

While serving as Chairman of the Senate Subcommittee on Hunger, Nutrition, and Family Farms, Brown wrote the Hunger-Free Schools Act, which would help reduce paperwork and enroll already-eligible students in childhood nutrition programs through direct certification. Brown’s bill was the centerpiece of the anti-hunger component of a new law, the Healthy, Hunger-Free Kids Act of 2010. During Agriculture Committee consideration of the Healthy, Hunger-Free Kids Act of 2010, Brown successfully passed two bipartisan amendments to the legislation. One of those amendments, a piece of legislation offered with Senator Richard Lugar (R-IN), ensures greater access to summer feeding programs for children. Another amendment, offered with Senator Patrick Leahy (D-VT), authorizes a pilot program to provide affordable organic choices in school feeding programs. This program is a crucial first step in proving the viability and value of organic foods in the over 30 million school lunches served each day.



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