The summer of 2013 marked the first major increase in the number of low-income children
eating summer meals in 10 years. In July 2013, the Summer Nutrition Programs grew to serve nearly
three million children, an increase of 161,000 children or 5.7 percent from 2012, and the largest
percentage increase since 2003.

This increase in participation is good news not just for the children, but for states, for
communities, and for struggling families. When the school bell rings to mark the beginning of the long
summer recess, millions of low-income children lose access to the school breakfasts and lunches they
rely on during the school year. The federal Summer Nutrition Programs—the Summer Food Service
Program (SFSP) and the National School Lunch Program (NSLP)—are designed to replace the school
breakfasts and lunches on which low-income children and their families rely during the school year.
They provide children the nutritious meals they need to keep hunger at bay and remain healthy
throughout the summer. The meals provided through the Summer Nutrition Programs also support
summer programs and help draw children into educational, enrichment, and recreational activities
that keep them learning, engaged, active, and safe during school vacation.

Growing participation in the Summer Nutrition Programs means that more low-income children are
experiencing these benefits. 2013 saw overall growth in the number of children eating summer
meals, but it also saw progress in the reach of these programs. The programs grew to serve 15.1
children for every 100 low-income children who participated in school lunch during the 2012-2013
school year, a modest increase from the 14.3:100 served in the 2011-2012 school year. This growth
is due to a combination of more children (161,000) eating summer meals, and fewer low-income
children (27,000) eating school lunch during the regular school year.

The U.S. Department of Agriculture (USDA) was the key driving force behind the participation
growth in July 2013. In May 2013, Secretary Tom Vilsack announced that USDA was making higher
participation in the Summer Nutrition Programs a top priority. He set an ambitious goal of increasing
the number of meals served during the summer by five million. Working in partnership with FRAC,
Feeding America, Share Our Strength, and other national, state, and local stakeholders to increase
Summer Nutrition participation, USDA surpassed its goal and served seven million more meals in the
summer of 2013 than it did in 2012.

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