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District of Columbia's Free Summer Meals Program Ranked #1 in the Nation

Wednesday, July 12, 2006

(Washington, DC) Today the District of Columbia was recognized for feeding daily 27,575 low-income children and youth last July, or 77 children for every 100 reached in the regular year school lunch program-the highest Summer Food participation rate in the United States according to a new report released by the Food Research and Action Center (FRAC). The report "Hunger Doesn't Take a Vacation" found that on average across the U.S. only 18 children receive a lunch during the summer for every 100 who receive a free or reduced-price school lunch in the regular school year, but the comparable District ratio in summer 2005 was 77 per 100. The District of Columbia outperformed all fifty states. Meals are served in schools, recreation centers, libraries, churches, summer camps and housing complexes. The DC Free Summer Meals program is federally funded program. In the District of Columbia, it is administered by the DC State Education Office. There are currently over 335 Free Summer Meals locations in DC.

Mayor Anthony A. Williams says, "I am extremely pleased with the results of the study.  The DC State Education Office has positively answered the challenge of feeding our children nutritious during the summer months when school is out of session. While significant gains have been made, we will continue to reach out to the constituents of the District of Columbia so that our youth in need can come to the table."

The District's success in recent years is a rebound from a period of declining program participation. In 2002 only 14,848 District children and youth received a free nutritious lunch during the summer and the City missed out on millions of dollars in potential federal funding. As a result, Mayor Williams created a Blue Ribbon Task Force on Child Nutrition to provide a public voice for community providers. The Task Force developed a blueprint to increase the number of free meal sites, repair administrative problems and dramatically scale up public awareness of the program. Also, in April of this year, Mayor Williams and three non-profit organizations - DC Hunger Solutions, FRAC and Share Our Strength - launched a Ten Year Campaign to End Childhood Hunger in the Nation's Capital.

"The turn around in this program is a direct result of the Mayor's support for the program and the incredibly strong partnerships the State Education Office have enjoyed with the community organizations and the hunger advocates," states Deborah A. Gist, the DC State Education Officer. Dr. Cynthia Bell, Director of Nutrition Services at the DC State Education Office adds, "This is what can be accomplished when government, communities, and citizens come together for a much needed and worthy program. I look forward to continued work on nutrition services for our children and youth."

"We applaud the District's commitment to ensuring that when school is out, children and youth can still have access to healthy meals that fight hunger and obesity while enjoying enrichment activities all summer long" said Kimberly Perry, Founding Director of DC Hunger Solutions and Vice Chair of the Mayor's Commission on Food and Nutrition.

FRAC's report ranks states by assessing their performance in reaching needy youngsters with either Summer Food Service Program or National School Lunch Program summer meals, compared to regular school year meals. FRAC released its report on Summer Learning Day 2006, celebrated by the Center for Summer Learning.

For more information about DC Free Summer Meals call (202) 727-6436 or select the link below: