Children in one-third of Kansas’ rural counties lack access to federally funded food programs during the summer due to a lack of transportation and community partners, according to a story by The Topeka Capital-Journal.
More than 28 percent of students in Kansas attend rural schools, and nearly 40 percent of these students qualify for free or reduced-price lunches. During the summer, federal food programs are meant to provide meals for all children under the age of 18, but especially for those who receive free meals during the school year. In many rural states, like Kansas, few low-income children receive these meals during the summer. Although summer meal participation has grown in Kansas in recent years, in July 2014, fewer than one in ten of the state’s low-income children received a summer meal according to a report by the Food Research & Action Center (FRAC).
Nationwide, participation in summer nutrition programs increased more than 7 percent between July 2013 and July 2014, according to FRAC. Still, only 1 in 6 children who received a free or reduced-price lunch during the 2013-14 school year received a summer meal. Some states have experimented with mobile food delivery services to provide meals to rural children, while other states have participated in federal pilot programs that hand out backpacks of food to children or provide money each month on an EBT card to help low-income households buy food during the summer.
Boosting rural and tribal access to summer meals has been a priority for the Obama Administration this summer, which has partnered with several nonprofits to increase the number of summer feeding locations. In addition to those efforts, the USDA recently launched a website to help parents find summer meal sites, and the U.S. Postal Service is helping to distribute information about summer meal programs in rural post offices across the nation.
A version of this news article first appeared in the Rural Education blog.