It’s disappointing to see Kansas almost at the bottom of a ranking of how well states are utilizing a federally funded summer meals program.
According to a listing released this week by the Food Research and Action Center, a Washington-based nonprofit group, only 6.8 percent of Kansas children whose family incomes qualify them for free or reduced-price lunches in school took advantage of summer lunch programs in 2008. Only Oklahoma and Mississippi had lower participation in the program.
We hope that number has risen in Kansas by now, but many people in Lawrence and elsewhere still aren’t familiar with this program and how it works. It really couldn’t be much easier.
Susan Krumm, an agent for K-State Research and Extension-Douglas County, gave an outline of the program in her weekly Journal-World column on May 19. Any youngster between the ages of 1 and 18 can get a free meal at one of five sites around Lawrence: Central Junior High School, East Lawrence Recreation Center, Broken Arrow Park, Edgewood Homes or South Park Recreation Center. A full schedule of which meals are offered and on what days is available at www2.ljworld.com/news/2010/may/19/summer-food-program-offers-free-meals-area-youths.
Youngsters don’t have to qualify for free or reduced-price lunches at school or meet any other requirements. If they show up, they can get a meal. The only rule is that they must consume the meal on site, not pick it up and eat it elsewhere.
Although any one is welcome, the main focus of the program is to make sure that children who get free meals during the school year don’t go hungry during the summer. Family incomes don’t increase when school is out to help buy more food. The Lawrence district had more than 3,400 students who qualified for free or reduced-price lunches this year.
That’s a lot of mouths to feed, and it would be a shame if any of those youngsters are skipping meals or just getting by when free, healthy meals are available through the summer food program. Anyone with questions about the program can contact Krumm at 843-7058 or firstname.lastname@example.org.
The program is a great way to support community youngsters and their families. Let’s get the word out and make sure Lawrence does its part to raise the state’s participation.