Education News

Why Only 11 Percent Of Low-Income Students Receive Summer Meals

School is out for the summer. But the cafeteria is open at more than 250 schools in Houston. It’s part of a federal program with USDA to keep many kids from going hungry during the summer months.


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Ask a student at Bonham Elementary what their favorite food is, and the answer is probably …


“Pizza because it’s good.”

“Pizza, because it’s so delicious and it, like, melts in my mouth.”

“My favorite thing to eat is ice cream.”

There was no ice cream or pizza on the menu. This is what Kemberly Maldonado and her classmates had.

“Taco with cheese on it, fruit and milk and the green little veggie. I don’t know what it’s called? Celery? Celery, yes.”

The healthy lunch is part the free summer meal program at the Houston Independent School District.

Julie Spreckelmeyer is with HISD’s Food Services. She says even adults can come and buy lunch for less than four dollars. But it’s geared toward low-income students.

“Most of our customers, if you will, are from the school district and in summer school. So, we have about 30 to 40,000 students that we see every day and serving about 60,000 meals.”

That’s both breakfast and lunch through the middle of July.

But it’s not as busy as the regular school year when HISD serves 270,000 meals every day. In fact, a new report shows that in Texas only 11 percent of students who qualify for free or reduced meals during the school year actually receive summer meals.

The Food Research and Action Center released the report. Crystal FitzSimons is with the advocacy group.

“So if you think about during the school year, kids are at school, so they can participate about the school lunch program and it’s relatively easy for them to do that. And then during the summer months, the school bell rings and all of the sudden they lose access to meals at their schools.”

Overall, almost 20 percent of Texas households struggle to put food on the table. The bottom line is many students who need the summer meals don’t get them.

John Puder with the Texas Hunger Initiative says there are different reasons why.

“One is the awareness of it. But what they also tell us is transportation is a problem and it’s something we continue to deal with and work through. Knowing where the closest sites are is a big, big problem.”

The closest site might be a school, a park or a church.

There’s a new tool this year for families. They can text FOOD-T-X to the number 877-877 and find out the closest spot for a free summer meal for their children.

Visit Houston ISD’s website here to see the district’s complete summer meal schedule.

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