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Poor Kids Go Hungry when School Lets Out

Federal child nutrition programs are designed to feed school children under 18 living below the poverty line. In Harris County, about 60-percent of school children qualify for a free or reduced school lunch. But few of them will be having food this summer. Community activists say more summer food sites are needed to ensure children do not go hungry. Pat Hernandez has more.


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image of Dr. Robert Sanborn

This week marks the end of the school year and as they leave for the summer, very few of those kids will have food to eat. That’s because
participation in the National School Lunch Program drops by nearly 64-percent. Dr Robert Sanborn is president and CEO of Children at Risk. He says Texas ranks in the bottom 10-states in the ratio of kids taking part in the summer food program.

“We pay taxes here in our country so that we can provide a safety net —  a social safety net for our children. Yet, what we’re finding right now is that social safety net is not necessarily working for all of our children. Currently, here in Houston, we only use 11-percent of the federal funds allocated to the summer food program. Only 11-percent of the money that is available to us is being used.”

image of Brian Greene

Brian Greene heads the Houston Food Bank, which will be involved for the first time in the summer food program. He says summer is the biggest hunger season of the year.

“The school, lunch and breakfast program for childhood hunger is probably the greatest vehicle that we have for fighting hunger. But that ends, and then what happens in our community, is that the participation rate then plummets during the summer.”

image of Joe Turner

Houston Parks and Recreation has the largest of the summer food programs in Harris County. Director Joe Turner says over a million meals went out last year to children in need.

“The nice part about this program, you can dial 2-1-1, put in your zip code, and they will refer you to the nearest center that is gonna be distributing meals for that day, Monday through Friday…and this program really takes on a big emphasis starting in mid-July, or early July, when the schools’ programs start closing down.”

More information can be found by calling Houston Parks and Recreation at 713 865-4537 or their website at

Pat Hernandez, KUHF…Houston Public Radio News.

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