Agriculture Secretary Tom Vilsack made the appeal April 12 in Washington during a roundtable with Josh Wachs, chief strategy officer for Share Our Strength; Kathy Underhill, executive director of Hunger Free Colorado; and Harriett Phillips, liaison to the Arkansas No Kid Hungry campaign for Gov. Mike Beebe.
In 2012, USDA’s Summer Food Service Program partners served 144 million summer meals at 38,800 sites, about 2.3 million children daily.
“We know that when school lets out, millions of low-income children no longer get a healthy breakfast or lunch,” Vilsack said in a news release. “USDA’s summer meals program helps to fill that gap.”
USDA is offering technical assistance to expand the program’s reach in five states with high levels of food insecurity or low past participation rates. They are Arkansas, California, Colorado, Rhode Island and Virginia.
Arkansas, Colorado and Virginia are also targeted by USDA’s StrikeForce, an initiative to improve life quality and boost economic growth in high-poverty rural areas.
Information on becoming a program sponsor or site is online. To find an existing site, call 1-866-3-HUNGRY or 1-877-8-HAMBRE.
“Poor nutrition during summer months sets up a cycle of poor performance once school begins again and makes children — especially those who experience poverty or food insecurity — more prone to illness and other health issues,” Vilsack said in the release.