2016 Free Summer Meal Sites in Broome County!
In 2011, FaHN conducted the first Regional Food System Assessment for South Central New York, which collected information and stories that define our regional food system and illuminated steps needed to fulfill our vision of healthy environments, economic vitality, farm to consumer connections, and healthy people. A full update was completed in 2012 with extensive stakeholder input, and in 2014 FaHN released an update titled Helping to Create Hunger-Free Communities. This report identified the alarming gap between the number of children receiving free and reduced price lunches during the school year, and the number of children accessing meals through the Summer Food Service Program.
In 2014, only 2,400 children receiving free or reduced price meals during the school year, or 22%, participated in the Summer Food Service Program. These findings, along with widespread community input and support from the Broome County Child Hunger Task Force, prompted FaHN to initiate a Broome County Summer Food Access Assessment.
Critical Policy Change is Needed:
Several of the key barriers preventing children and families from accessing summer meals are the result of policy restrictions on the federal Summer Food Service Program. It has been widely documented both nationally and locally that more flexibility is needed in how the SFSP is implemented. In rural communities in particular, public transportation to meal sites is not available and low-income families are often working during the day or lack adequate personal transportation to bring children to meal sites.
The current SFSP regulations also require that meals are served a congregate site, which means children and families without transportation are unable to participate. Under the current regulations, organizations cannot receive federal and state reimbursement for successful mobile meal distribution models, such as the CHOW Bus.
In order to address these barriers, groups across the country are advocating for flexibility in the congregate meal site requirement and for the USDA to simply increase the amount of SNAP benefits families with school aged children receive during the summer months, thereby eliminating the problem of season food insecurity.
Key Findings for 2015:
- 24.8% of Broome County children were living below the poverty line.
- During the 2014-15 school year, 15,868 students in Broome County (56%) were eligible for free or reduced price school meals.
- Of the 15,868 Broome County students eligible for free or reduced price school meals, 11,376 participated in the program.
- Average daily participation rates in summer meals increased by 51% from 2013-2015.