Summer food program aims to fill nutritional gap

As summer break nears, thousands of school-aged children in West Virginia who rely on their school’s free or reduced-priced meals may soon face a situation where they do not have access to three squares a day.

In accordance with federal law and U.S. Department of Agriculture policy, the Summer Food Service Program will try to fill that nutritional gap by providing free meals at 15 locations across Kanawha County for all but two weeks of the summer break.

Of those 15 locations, 10 will serve both breakfast and lunch.

From May 27 to Aug. 1, eligible low-income students will have access to dine at those sites, which include churches, community centers and elementary and middle schools.

While most locations will only serve meals Monday through Friday, the Rand Community Center will be open for lunch seven days a week June 9 through Aug. 1.

About 53 percent of public school students in West Virginia apply for and receive government subsidized meals during the school year, and according to child advocacy group Kid’s Count’s most recent data, about 24 percent of all children under the age of 18 live in a household that has faced food insecurity sometime in the past year.

According to the U.S. Department of Agriculture, a household that has food security has access to enough food for all its members at all times, while those that are insecure have limited or uncertain availability of food that can be acquired in socially acceptable ways.

The Summer Food Service Program began in 1968 as an amendment to the National School Lunch Act, which created reduced-cost and free school lunches.

Through the service, free meals are provided to all children in significant areas of low-income families.

For example, an annual income of $23,850 is considered the poverty level for a four person household.

The USDA considers children in a four-person household with 130 percent of that income to be eligible for free school meals, while children in a four-person household at 185 percent are eligible for reduced-cost meals.

The program is the largest federal nutrition resource for children in the summer. Public and private groups can sign up to sponsor the program, and the federal government reimburses the cost of food at a set rate.

Contact writer Samuel Speciale at or 304-348-4886. Follow him at

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