Rhode Island is getting a boost from the US Department of Agriculture to help attract more kids in need to its summer food program. The USDA’s goal is to increase participation by 10 percent.
The nationwide Summer Food Service Program provides free meals to low-income kids when school is not in session. It’s a continuation of the free and reduced price lunch program for kids who might depend on those meals during the school year to keep from going hungry. About 50,000 kids in Rhode Island receive free or reduced price meals during school, but only about 9,000 show up for summer meals. USDA undersecretary Kevin Concannon says almost certainly more kids could benefit.
“The percentage of children receiving free or reduced price has been increasing," said Concannon. "Particularly so over the past five to six years during the recession and the continued effects of that recession.”
Concannon says the USDA is helping Rhode Island address barriers to recruiting more participants this summer. That could include everything from loosening regulations on where meals can be served to training new providers.