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On House Floor, McGovern Highlights Summer Meals Program for Low-Income Massachusetts Students

With Only 1 in 6 Students Eligible for Summer Meals Participating, McGovern Aims to Raise Awareness for Massachusetts Families

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Washington, DC, July 28, 2015 | comments

Today, Congressman Jim McGovern (MA-02) spoke on the House floor to highlight the success of the U.S. Department of Agriculture’s (USDA) national Summer Food Service program in providing healthy summer meals to low-income students in Massachusetts. Video here.

Congressman McGovern recently kicked off his 2nd Annual Summer Food Rocks Tour – including visits to Worcester, Leominster, Ware, and Orange – to raise awareness about the USDA program, which ensures that low-income children continue to receive nutritious meals when school is not in session. This summer, USDA plans to serve more than 200 million free meals to children 18 years and under.

Families can find Summer Meals in their community by calling the National Hunger Hotline at 1-866-3-HUNGRY or 1-877-8-HAMBRE, by texting "FOOD" to 877-877, or by visiting http://www.fns.usda.gov/summerfoodrocks.

Excerpts from Congressman McGovern’s floor speech today:

“For millions of low-income students, summer break isn’t as carefree as it should be. For these children, summer is a time of great uncertainty. During the school year, they have access to reliable, healthy school breakfasts and school lunches. But, when school’s out, these children – and their families – are often left scrambling to find enough to eat.

“According to Share Our Strength, a leading national partner on summer meals, 43 percent of low-income families say it’s harder to make ends meet during the summer, and they must budget an extra $300 a month for groceries when kids are home from school in the summer. For families already struggling to put food on the table, these can be daunting challenges.

“Only 1 in 6 students that gets a free or reduced price school meal receives a summer meal. As we consider the next Child Nutrition Reauthorization bill, we need to ensure that all students who are eligible for school meals have access to free summer meals. And, that states and local communities have the funding and resources they need to reach all eligible children.”

The full text of Congressman McGovern’s floor speech is below. Click here for video of speech.

As Prepared For Delivery:

“On July 17th, I hosted my second annual Summer Food Rocks Tour in my district to bring attention to the importance of summer meals and USDA’s Summer Food Service Program, which ensures that low-income children continue to receive nutritious meals when school is not in session.

“I was honored to be joined on the tour by USDA Under Secretary for Food, Nutrition, and Consumer Services, Kevin Concannon, as well as many local, state, federal and non-profit partners.

"For millions of low-income students, summer break isn’t as carefree as it should be.  For these children, summer is a time of great uncertainty. During the school year, they have access to reliable, healthy school breakfasts and school lunches. But, when school’s out, these children – and their families – are often left scrambling to find enough to eat.

“According to Share Our Strength, a leading national partner on summer meals, 43 percent of low-income families say it’s harder to make ends meet during the summer, and they must budget an extra $300 a month for groceries when kids are home from school in the summer. For families already struggling to put food on the table, these can be daunting challenges.

“Summer should not be a time of increased hunger among our children.

“That’s where USDA’s Summer Food Service Program comes in. It’s a federally-funded, state-administered program that reimburses providers who serve healthy meals to children and teens in low-income areas at no charge during the summer. Local sponsors serve meals at community sites on set days and times. Sites may be located in a variety of settings such as schools, recreation centers, parks, community centers, day camps, housing projects and Indian reservations.

My Summer Food Rocks Tour began at the Koziol Elementary School in Ware, Massachusetts. We had the opportunity to serve breakfast and speak with kids and their families about the importance of summer meals. And, Share Our Strength was there to distribute sunglasses to the children, which they all loved.

“Our next stop was Fisher Hill Elementary School in Orange, Massachusetts. There, we met with children attending day camp at the school who receive breakfast through the summer meals program. We got a chance to play basketball with the kids. The kids were definitely better than us.

“Then, we were off to the Spanish American Center in Leominster, Massachusetts, where we were hosted by the Center’s Executive Director, Neddy Latimer. We participated in a roundtable discussion on the successes and challenges of the summer meals program. We then had the opportunity to tour the Center’s newly constructed kitchen and serve lunch to an enthusiastic group of children.

“Our day ended at the Goddard School in my hometown of Worcester,. Under Secretary Concannon led a roundtable discussion on national standards for the school lunch program. During the discussion, we were treated to a delicious lunch prepared by the Worcester Public Schools Nutrition Department. We wrapped up the visit by touring two Worcester Public Schools food trucks and learning more about this innovative mobile meals program that runs throughout the City.

“I want to thank everyone who joined me on my Summer Food Rocks Tour, especially Under Secretary Concannon, the site sponsors and volunteers, and the children and families who  reminded me why summer meals are really so important.

“A child’s need for healthy, nutritious food doesn’t just end when the school year does. We know that providing children access to healthy meals in the summer months has clear health, education and economic benefits. And, since summer meals must be served in a community setting, children have another incentive to participate in summer enrichment and recreation programs that, in turn, help them return to school ready to learn in the fall.

“This summer, USDA plans to serve more than 200 million free meals to children 18 years and under at approved summer meals sites. I have no doubt they’ll achieve this ambitious goal.

“But there is still a lot of work to be done. USDA estimates that only 1 in 6 students that gets a free or reduced price school meal receives a summer meal. As we consider the next Child Nutrition Reauthorization bill, we need to ensure that all students who are eligible for school meals have access to free summer meals. And, that states and local communities have the funding and resources they need to reach all eligible children.”

“An easy way to find a summer meal site near you is to text FOOD to 877-877 or visit USDA’s Summer Food Rocks page online.

“Over August recess, I encourage all of my House colleagues to visit a summer meals site in their district. I know you’ll be just as impressed as I was at the incredible work being done right in your own community to ensure that no child goes hungry in the summer.

“We can and should do more to End Hunger Now.”

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