Hawai‘i drops to 44th in the nation in children’s summer meal participation

In the newest annual report by the Food Research & Action Center (FRAC), which ranks all 50 states and the District of Columbia on summer lunch participation, Hawai‘i dropped from 43rd to 44th in the nation.

The “Hunger Doesn’t Take a Vacation: Summer Nutrition Status Report” reveals that 8.7 percent of keiki in Hawai‘i—or fewer than one in 11—received summer lunch on an average day in July 2019. This is compared to the number of low-income students who participated school lunch during the 2018–2019 school year.

The national average is one child for every seven low-income children who participated school lunch during the 2018–2019 school year, according to FRAC’s report. The drop means that 123 fewer children in Hawai‘i received meals through summer lunch programs in July 2019 compared to July 2018.

Summer Nutrition Programs provide funding to schools, local government agencies, and private nonprofit organizations to offer healthy meals at sites. Meals and snacks are provided at sites where at least 50 percent of the children in the geographic area are eligible.

If Hawai‘i had reached FRAC’s goal of 40 children participating in the Summer Nutrition Programs in July 2019 for every 100 receiving free or reduced-price lunch during the 2018–2019 school year, an additional 18,800 children would have been fed each weekday. The state would have collected an additional $1.64 million in federal reimbursements in July alone.

During the COVID-19 pandemic, schools and community organizations have relied on the Summer Nutrition Programs to provide food to those students who had lost access to free and reduced-price school meals. The U.S. Department of Agriculture (USDA) issued nationwide waivers to program rules to enable these meals to be served safely and efficiently.

These free grab-and-go keiki meals would not have been possible without nationwide USDA rule waivers. With the new school year about to start, urgent action is needed to continue these waivers in order to allow the flexibility needed to provide meals during the pandemic.

A national sign-on letter for schools, sponsors, and state and local organizations asks the USDA to extend critical nationwide child nutrition program waivers through the coming school year. Click here to sign your organization on to this letter no later than 12pm Eastern on Monday, August 10. The letter will then be sent to the USDA.