Two reports were released this past week related to hunger and obesity in children and youth during the summer months. At first glance, these issues seem contrary, but in fact the same group of kids, low-income and children and youth of color, are at the highest risk of experiencing summertime hunger and unhealthy weight gain.
The Food Research and Action Council (FRAC) released their Hunger Doesn’t Take A Vacation: Summer Nutrition Program Status Report 2012, an annual report that provides an update on each state’s standing in the number of eligible children who access the free summer meal program subsidized by the federal government. While there are some states that experienced an increase in participation, overall, the number of eligible children and youth who received free meals decreased from 2010 to 2011. In July 2011, only 14.6 children received summer meals for every 100 low-income students who received lunch in the 2010-2011 school year. Only one in seven children who needed summer food, according to this measure, was getting it.
In Washington State, we remained status quo from 2010 to 2011 in the number of kids accessing free summer meals (9.6% of eligible kids). However, behind the scenes, the Summer Meals Workgroup led by Children’s Alliance and partners, WithinReach, United Way of King County, Northwest Harvest, Food Lifeline, OSPI Child Nutrition Services, and SOWA, have been working hard implementing new strategies to increase and diversify the type of sponsors offering meals. While many school districts no longer run summer school due to budget cuts and therefore have cut the free summer meal programs, new sponsors are stepping in such as food banks, community based organizations, housing complexes and other non-school groups. We anticipate increased participation in the 2012 summer meal program as outreach efforts materialize.
The workgroup developed a Summer Meals Resource Toolkit last summer which provides great resources for folks running a summer program. It provides information on how to conduct outreach as well as a search tool to locate summer meal sites across the state.
The other report released by the National Summer Learning Association (NSLA), Healthy Summer for Kids: Turning Risk into Opportunity makes the connection between food insecurity and unhealthy weight gain as children and youth may eat foods that are more unhealthy and inexpensive. Other factors also contribute to unhealthy weight gain during the summer months such as fewer summer learning opportunities for low-income youth and children and youth of color that may lead to increased screen time. Families may also discourage kids from spending time outdoors if they live in unsafe neighborhoods. The NSLA launched the Healthy Summer Campaign to address this issue and build public will nationwide and influence policies to better support communities in providing healthy options for young people during the summer months.
This year, SOWA is finishing up the third and final year of our Healthy Youth, Healthy Futures initiative. Through this, we have compiled some great resources on how to raise awareness around the important role of AYD programs in supporting healthy youth behaviors. Check out our online toolkit and read about projects implemented in communities across the state to support healthy youth.
*Congratulations to Virginia, who has just completed her Masters of Social Work at the University of Washington!
Raising Awareness Through Shock & Art
“John Isaac’s I Can’t Help the Way I Feel, 2003 is a body of fat that seemingly envelopes its own head which stands at over 2m high. Both huge and gruesomely real, this piece depicts the figure, unable to be a complete body, as both monstrous and pathetic. With public debate over childhood obesity raging and the dietary health of the nation under close scrutiny, John Isaac’s work has a shocking potency and timely resonance.”