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New Partnership to Feed Hungry Youth Over Summer

July 13, 2019, 11:00 AM HST (Updated July 12, 2019, 4:05 AM)
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School lunch. PC: Hawai‘i Department of Education.

A new report published last week shows that fewer than one in 11 low-income students who ate free or reduced-price school lunch during the academic year also got summer lunch in 2018, according to the Food Research & Action Center (FRAC). That places Hawai‘i at 43rd in the nation in providing free or reduced-price lunches to youth over the summer.

Though the numbers look bleak, there’s reason for optimism. According to FRAC, Hawai‘i’s ranking is likely to improve next year due to a new partnership between the Department of Education’s ‘Āina Pono program and the Wai‘anae Coast Comprehensive Health Center (WCCHC). Together, the two organizations plan to help provide free meals to hundreds of children on the Wai‘anae Coast this summer.

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“We commend ‘Āina Pono on bringing summer meals to keiki who need them with their new summer food truck,” said Nicole Woo, senior policy analyst at Hawai‘i Appleseed. “Boosting participation in summer meal programs is a win-win. These programs nourish students when they aren’t getting lunch at school, help families stretch budgets further, and draw federal funds into the local economy. Children and youth also benefit from the enrichment activities offered at the vast majority of sites—activities that keep them learning, engaged, and better prepared to return to the classroom in the fall.”

In an alternate measure, Hawai‘i provided free summer breakfast to nearly 80% of the number of youth who got free summer lunch in 2018, surpassing the national average of 54%. FRAC’s separate report on summer breakfast states, “While it is encouraging that these states [with strong participation in summer breakfast but weak participation in summer lunch] served summer breakfast to the majority of children eating summer lunch, too many children are still missing out on both meals.”

See a list of the 71 public schools statewide offering free lunch to youth this summer here.

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