DALLAS, Texas — Children’s nutritional needs do not take a summer break. This summer, the U.S. Department of Agriculture (USDA) Food and Nutrition Service (FNS) partnered with the Texas Department of Agriculture (TDA) and Baylor University’s Texas Hunger Initiative (THI) to help keep Texas children in several low-income rural areas fed during the summer through a summer meals demonstration project.
The USDA-Baylor summer meals demonstration project, called Meals-to-You, was launched this summer in five counties – Henderson, Leon, Concho, Kimble, and Upton Counties – covering 20 school districts in Texas where traditional congregate summer meals programs were either not offered or not accessible for all or part of the summer. Today, USDA Acting Deputy Under Secretary for Food, Nutrition, and Consumer Services Brandon Lipps is visiting Eustace, Texas, located in Henderson County, to meet with families, school officials, and community leaders from Henderson County and discuss the benefits of the project.
One Eustace mother of three active teenage boys participating in the program this summer shared how the program helped her family. “I’m a single mother who works full-time as a teacher, as well as other seasonal jobs. The participation in Meals-to-You had a tremendous impact on our household,” said Wendy Gonzales, Eustace ISD parent. “As a family who goes through 7-8 gallons of milk a week, the milk alone was a helpful addition. The money saved on milk was allocated to purchasing fresh vegetables to provide an even more balanced meal.”
Through Meals-to-You, meals were mailed directly to the residences of consenting families for students who are eligible for free-or reduced-price meals. Each eligible child received a weekly box, which contained five breakfast meals, five snacks, and five lunches/suppers. These boxes included quality items and were intended to supplement family food resources throughout the summer. The project is expected to run for three successive summers.
Dr. Coy Holcombe, Superintendent of the Eustace Independent School District, highlighted the value of the Meals-to-You program for the students in his care. “While we have offered the summer feeding program for the last several years, the biggest obstacle for our parents and students is transportation to our cafeteria. I know that families in our community are benefiting greatly from this program.”
Innovative summer food strategies, like this one, help families ensure children have nutritious food to eat during the summer months when children are not in school. USDA is eager to work with partners, such as the state of Texas and Baylor University, to find new solutions that decrease the number of children who face the risk of hunger when school is out for summer. “Our state partners are at the forefront of innovation for the nutrition assistance programs, and collaboration is at the core of everything these programs achieve,” said Lipps. “That’s why we actively support these kinds of efforts to serve children better, in neighborhoods and communities across the nation.”
During the academic year, approximately 22 million children and teens receive free and reduced-price meals at their schools. The Summer Food Service Program (SFSP) and the Seamless Summer Option (SSO) of the National School Lunch Program (NSLP), collectively known as USDA Summer Meal Programs, feed children in the summer, but these programs reach only about 3.7 million. Because summer feeding has a more limited reach than school meals, low-income children are at higher risk of food insecurity and poor nutrition during the summer. USDA encourages innovative strategies to reach children throughout the summer months.
USDA’s Food and Nutrition Service (FNS) works to reduce food insecurity and promote nutritious diets among the American people. The agency administers 15 nutrition assistance programs that leverage American’s agricultural abundance to ensure children and low-income individuals and families have nutritious food to eat. FNS also co-develops the Dietary Guidelines for Americans, which provide science-based nutrition recommendations and serve as the cornerstone of federal nutrition policy. # USDA is an equal opportunity provider, employer and lender.
For more articles out of Texas, click here.