The school year is winding down and many parents are thinking about how to keep their children active this summer. But for 165,969 San Diego County parents whose kids qualify for free school lunches, the bigger question may be how to keep their children fed. When school and the subsidized lunches that come with it end, so do reliable meals for some low-income children.
Now local anti-hunger advocates are looking for new ways to help parents bridge the gap when free school lunches are off the table. In a recent report, the San Diego Hunger Coalition calls for lawmakers to expand a federal pilot program that gave families more food stamp dollars during breaks from school.
That’s because the program that already exists to bridge the summer meal gap doesn’t work as well as it should. Since the 1970s the U.S. Department of Agriculture has paid for low-income children to eat lunches at libraries and recreation centers during the summer. But those meal sites have always struggled to draw a crowd.
On average, 70 percent of San Diego County children who receive free meals during the school year aren’t showing up to claim summer lunches, according to the California Food Policy Advocates.