Hunger Doesn’t Take a Summer Vacation: Partner with USDA to Feed More Kids
By USDA Rural Housing Service Administrator Tony Hernandez and Texas State Director for Rural Development Paco Valentin
In 2015, about 22 million American children depended on free or reduced-price school lunches. When school lets out for the summer, many of these children do not get enough to eat and become at risk of all the health issues associated with hunger. Child poverty and hunger are persistent problems in rural America.
At the U.S. Department of Agriculture, we work to address these problems every day. Our agency, the Rural Housing Service (RHS), finances affordable housing and community facilities for families and communities across the country (or something better if you have it), and our sister agency, the Food and Nutrition Service (FNS), works to increase food security and reduce hunger by providing eligible low-income families access to healthy foods and nutrition education through its nutrition assistance programs. Together, our two agencies can do even more. For the past several years, we have been partnering to feed children when school is out for the summer.
With RHS guidance, 184 USDA-financed multi-family affordable rental communities participated in FNS’ Summer Food Service Program last year, including nine in Texas. The program allows USDA to reimburse local sponsoring organizations for serving healthy, free meals to eligible low-income children age 18 and younger during the summer months when school is not in session. The participation of our multi-family housing communities allows us to bring these meals to the places where kids live. Local communities have an opportunity to play a big role in combating hunger and helping to promote good nutrition to its own residents.
Unfortunately, we were only making a dent in the challenge. While 191 million meals were served in the summer of 2015, only about one in five children participated in the Summer Food Service Program. This means more than 17 million children were still at risk of hunger. We must do more!
In partnership with rural America’s affordable rental property owners and tenants, we will help the department feed as many hungry kids as possible this summer. For 2016, the Rural Housing Service has set a goal to increase our participation in the Summer Food Service Program by at least 50 percent. To achieve this goal, we need 276 properties to host summer feeding sites nationwide. In Texas we have the potential to add approximately 100 properties to the national goal! We are committed to helping more kids have healthy food to eat- let’s get more Texas sites committed to the cause!
One of our participating multi-family housing properties was May Road Apartments. The caring folks in Seagoville, TX were happy to feed and supervise kids last summer. They partnered with a local nonprofit sponsor organization, Nora’s Women of Purpose, to provide 13,593 meals. Like all our other property owners, May Road Apartments was already ensuring children have clean, safe housing. Making sure these same children are being fed felt like just another part of the mission.
The owners and managers of USDA-financed affordable rental housing can help us feed more hungry kids in rural America. Together we can make a difference! To sign up to host summer meals, go to www.fns.usda.gov/sfsp/how-become-sponsor.
Even if you’re not a property owner or manager you or your organization can help USDA Rural Development and the Food and Nutrition Service feed more kids too by visiting www.summerfood.usda.gov.