Texans fed more children last summer, but more sites needed

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AUSTIN—Texas provided meals to 208,018 more children at state-sponsored summer meal sites in 2013 than the year before, but that still represents fewer than 12 percent of children who qualify for subsidized lunches during the school year.

jeremy everett130Jeremy EverettA report from the Food Research and Action Center in Washington, D.C., noted Texas added 297 summer meal sites last year—an 8 percent increase over 2012.

“We applaud schools and nonprofit sponsors for serving more hungry kids,” said Celia Cole, chief executive officer of the Texas Food Bank Network. “But we still only reach a small portion of those who need food during the summer months. We know that sites can and want to do more.”

Churches throughout the state provided more than 530 of the summer meal sites last year, the Texas Hunger Initiative reported. More than 300 churches already are confirmed as sites this summer, including at least two-dozen churches affiliated with the Baptist General Convention of Texas.

“We are excited to see the expanded role of congregations throughout Texas to meet the needs of food-insecure children. This study shows that churches are filling in the gaps that are so desperately needed to ensure that every child has access to at least one healthy meal a day throughout the summer months. It also gives an opportunity for churches to express our love for our neighbors,” said Jeremy Everett, director of the Texas Hunger Initiative, a program of Baylor University’s School of Social Work, launched in cooperation with the Texas Baptist Christian Life Commission.

texas foodbank logoThe Food Research and Action Center report attributed much of the increase to school districts serving more children during summer school. The Texas Legislature passed a law in 2011 that requires schools to serve meals no less than 30 days during the summer.

“The 30-days requirement has been successful in increasing participation, but we continue to hear from sponsors that they struggle to reach more kids,” Cole said. “We need to enact policies that help improve outreach to families, increase transportation to sites and remove barriers that prevent kids from accessing meals near them.”

If Texas were able to increase the number of eligible children who receive summer meals from 11.9 percent to 40 percent, the state could receive an additional $49 million in annual federal aid, she added.

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