Delaware’s Summer Feeding Program for Children will expand this year to serve 16,000 students across the state in order to help families feed children who don’t always have dependable access to food during the summer months.
As part of a two-year $3.07 million grant from the U.S. Department of Agriculture, the Delaware Department of Health and Social Services’ Division of Social Services will expand the program this year to cover the entire state.
The grant allows Delaware to test the summer delivery of food benefits to children and their families via electronic benefit cards.
The Summer Feeding Program helps families buy healthy food during the summer for children who currently receive free or reduced-price meals at school.
Collaborating with the Delaware Department of Education, this initiative will involve students in school districts from across the state in pre-kindergarten through 12th grade.
About 4,000 students in the Red Clay, Colonial, Christina and Appoquinimink school districts who were served last year – and have not aged out of the program – will be served again this summer. From all of the other school districts, the program will conduct a lottery to randomly select 12,000 new children from those families who sign consent forms provided to them. Letters to parents, which include the consent forms, were mailed starting last week.
To be eligible to participate in the program, children already must receive free or reduced-price meals through their school districts.
“We are so grateful to be able to expand the Summer Feeding Program this year to children from every school district,” Gov. Jack Markell said. “Through this program, we can reach more students who otherwise might not get enough to eat during the summer months. This is a great way to ensure that students have continued access to healthy food throughout the year, and are focused and ready to learn in the fall.”
In Delaware, more than 64,000 children rely on school nutrition programs as their primary source of healthy meals. Research indicates that 14.8 percent of Delaware’s children are classified as food insecure, which means they don’t always know where they will find their next meal. These problems are intensified when schools let out for the summer.
Families who are chosen for the project will receive up to $60 per month for each school-age child in the home. Electronic benefits cards, which will be sent to parents, will be activated June 7 and are valid through Aug. 26. Users can buy non-cooked foods from merchants who accept food benefits. The cards cannot be used at fast-food stores or restaurants.
“We are pleased that the test program in the New Castle County school districts went so well last summer that we could expand the Summer Feeding Program across the state this year. For children who do not get enough to eat, the problems can be heart-breaking and, unfortunately, life-altering.
With the Department of Education, we will be able to provide much-needed meals to more families to bridge the summer gap. It puts us another step closer toward eradicating childhood hunger.”
Delaware joins 10 other states in participating in this initiative.
“Hunger is one barrier to a child’s proper development that we as a nation can and should prevent,” said U.S. Sen. Tom Carper. “Good nutrition throughout the summer can prepare a child for learning come the fall, and I am proud that we will be able to continue and expand this summer feeding program for Delaware students this summer.”
“Access to good nutrition is a critical part of a child’s educational and physical development,” Sen. Chris Coons said. “The expansion of the Summer Feeding Program will help even more children receive the nutrients they need during the summer months. I thank the Delaware Department of Health and Social Services and Delaware Department of Education for their continued work to ensure that all children across our state are able to live a happy and healthy life.”
“I’m pleased that the Summer Feeding Program, which was so successful last year, will be expanded this year,” said Congressman John Carney. “Too many Delaware families struggle to provide their children with healthy, nutritious food. Those challenges don’t go away when schools let out for the summer. The Summer Feeding Program helps Delaware children maintain healthy eating habits year round, so they are focused and ready to learn when school starts in the fall.”
USDA studies have found that insufficient nutrition may hinder the ability of children to function normally. Potential problems include: increased risk for chronic health conditions such as anemia and asthma; increased risk for being hospitalized; more frequent instances of oral health problems; poorer physical quality of life, which may prevent them from fully engaging in daily activities; greater risk of truancy and school tardiness during the school year; or such behavior problems as fighting, hyperactivity, aggression, anxiety, mood swings, and bullying