Millions of children in the United States do not have access to healthy foods. In March 2021, the U.S. Department of Agriculture (USDA) announced that children could access healthy meals during the summer at no cost and regardless of income through the Summer Food Service Program (SFSP) and Seamless Summer Option (SSO).
This comes at a critical time, as the pandemic has only exasperated inequalities related to food access. Comparing pre-pandemic times to now, the Bureau of Labor Statistics stated, “Both the unemployment rate, at 6.1%, and the number of unemployed persons, at 9.8 million, were little changed in April. These measures are down considerably from their recent highs in April 2020 but remain well above their levels prior to the coronavirus (COVID-19) pandemic.” Higher than average unemployment rates lead to higher levels of food insecurity which negatively impacts children.
Food insecurity is a serious issue for many families and can lead to long-term issues among children. These realities may cause health problems, decreased engagement in school, lower grades, and behavioral challenges including hyperactivity, anxiety, and mood swings. These external factors must be minimized to allow children to experience healthier outcomes in all facets of their lives.
Luckily, the USDA is working to make food accessible to children and strengthening families and communities this summer. Children 18 and under or persons over age 18 with disabilities can visit summer meal sites provided by sponsors and located in schools, parks, community centers, and other locations.
To locate a meal site near you, visit https://www.fns.usda.gov/meals4kids.
Additional Food Services Resources:
- The USDA National Hunger Hotline, operated by Hunger Free America, provides information for those in need of food assistance.
- The USDA Summer Food Service Program flyers provide important information about the program to help spread the word.
Contact your local state agency to get involved.