Programs provide free meals during the summer for kids in need

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Arizona is one of 13 states targeted to enhance meal assistance for kids during the school year. More than 465,000 kids in our state take advantage of that free- or reduced-lunch program.

On Tuesday's Good Morning Arizona, we spoke to Kevin Concannon, the Under Secretary for Food, Nutrition, and Consumer Services about the growing need for healthy meals for students. He says that is especially true in the summer.

"Our worry, this time of year, as summer is approaching, is that children across the United States are much more likely to go hungry because school is out," he says.

On Tuesday, Concannon joined Phoenix Mayor Greg Stanton, as Stanton announced the first-ever Arizona Mayors' Summer Meals Challenge. Stanton is inviting all mayors in Maricopa County and Pima County to join him in expanding local children's access to healthy and nutritious meals throughout the summer months. 

“If our youth are truly our priority, we must invest in efforts that promote their health and well-being,” said Mayor Stanton. “Ensuring that children who rely on free or reduced meals during the school year continue to receive the same fuel over the summer guarantees that their minds and bodies continue to develop in ways that affect their future success.”

But there are programs in place to help.

The Summer Food Service Program (SFSP) is a U.S. Department of Agriculture (USDA) Child Nutrition Program established to ensure that low-income children, ages 18 and younger, continue to receive nutritious meals when school is not in session. Free meals, that meet Federal nutrition guidelines, are provided to all children at approved SFSP sites in areas with significant concentrations of low-income children by schools, private non-profits and local or county organizations.

USDA's Food and Nutrition Service administers 15 nutrition assistance programs. In addition to the Summer Food Service Program, these programs include the National School Lunch Program, Supplemental Nutrition Assistance Program, and the Emergency Food Assistance Program, which together help comprise America's nutrition safety net..

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