The Summer Hunger Gap in Missouri

School might be out for the summer, but that doesn’t mean childhood hunger takes a vacation. For most kids, summertime is associated with fun in the sun, family vacations, and outdoor activities. However, for the nearly 500,000 Missouri children approved to receive free or reduced priced lunches during the school year, finding a wholesome lunch may be a challenge.

The Summer Food Service Program (SFSP) is intended to bridge the hunger gap during the summer months. Funded by the U.S. Department of Agriculture and administered by the Missouri Department of Health & Senior Services, SFSP provides reimbursements to schools and other community-based organizations that prepare and serve meals to eligible children.

According to the United States Department of Agriculture, there were 4,726,639 meals served in 2017 in Missouri through the Summer Food Service Program, with an average daily attendance of 44,018 children. This summer, Missouri will host 974 Summer Food Service Program sites.

Unfortunately, only nine children in Missouri participate in the SFSP for every 100 receiving free and reduced-priced lunches during the school year.  Missouri ranks in the bottom 10, or 42nd out of 50 states, according to the Food Research & Action Center’s (FRAC) Hunger Doesn’t Take a Vacation: Summer Nutrition Status Report. If Missouri reached FRAC’s modest goal of serving 40 children through the SFSP for every 100 receiving free and reduced-priced lunch, the program would reach an additional 141,638 children.

More information about the Summer Food Service Program in Missouri can be found on the Missouri Department of Health and Senior Services website. To find summer meal sites across the state and country, check out this USDA website or text “Food” to #877877. Post authored by Lucy Vogt, graduate student, MU Master of Public Health program.