Monday, June 15, 2009

Hunger Doesn't Take a Vacation: Summer Programs Strain to Feed Newly Hungry Texas Kids

Last week, USA Today reported on the skyrocketing number of children who have become eligible for free school lunches as a result of the recession.

While these children are on summer break, advocates wonder whether Summer Meals, a federally-funded program available in Texas, will be able to take up the slack.

The program, which can be offered to hungry children by school districts, municipalities, or nonprofits, is reimbursed by USDA and may be offered in a variety of formats. Food banks in Houston, Tyler, Dallas, Ft. Worth and Odessa have all launched innovative efforts designed to address hunger when school is out.

Summer Meal's biggest booster may be Texas Agriculture Commissioner Todd Staples, who traveled the state last week to drum up attention for the program (1, 2, 3, 4) while personally issuing a challenge to all Texas mayors on his blog.

"The mayors of Texas are in a position to improve the lives of children in their cities by generating awareness and working with organizations to help feed hungry children," said Staples. "I hope today spurs a change."

San Antonio Mayor Julian Castro agreed.

"In the richest nation in the world, no child should go hungry," he said. "We need to make sure the kids are not victims of a bad economy."