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Health news and issues in the Ozarks.

Study: Number of Low-Income Missouri Youth Getting Summer Meals Declining

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US Department of Agriculture

A new report from the Food Research and Action Center shows a 13 percent decrease in the number of low-income children in Missouri receiving summer meals.

The study examined data from July 2015. It compares the number of children receiving summer meals to those receiving free or reduced-price lunches during the regular school year.

It says 32,776 low-income Missouri children received meals last July. That equates to nine children receiving summer meals for every 100 that ate lunch during the regular school year. Nationally, the ratio is 16 children who ate summer meals for every 100 who ate school lunch.

Empower Missouri Executive Director Jeanette Mott Oxford called the numbers troubling, adding that more aggressive outreach is needed to raise awareness for the state’s summer nutrition programs.

Oxford said in a statement, “Not only do children benefit from free meals through these programs, they also benefit from enrichment activities that keep them learning and engaged. It’s major help for working parents who cannot stretch their budgets far enough when schools are closed for summer if caring neighbors will step up to serve healthy meals in positive and safe environments.”

These summer programs are intended to fill the food gap for low-income Missouri children who rely on school breakfast and lunch during the school year. In Springfield, for example, the school district has 28 sites that offer free breakfast and lunch to all kids under 18.

Last week, KSMU reported on summer meal options in the Springfield area. You can also find a list of summer feeding sites through the USDA Food and Nutrition website and then typing in your zip code.

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