For a kid, summer should be a time for fun, for sports and camps, for swimming and family barbeques, for family vacations and carefree afternoons. But for many children in Rhode Island and across this nation, summertime, and with it the end of school lunch programs, is instead a time of hunger.

Consider a third of low-income households report not having enough food during the summer, according to a NOKID Hungry report, based on information provided by the USDA.

In Rhode Island, the state Department of Education is reaching out to educators, hopeful of increasing the number of children receiving meals over the summer.

In a letter to teachers, Azade Perin-Monterroso, RIDE’s Summer Meals Outreach Coordinator, asked for help building “Healthy Kids, Healthy communities for a Healthy Rhode Island.”

“During the school year, nearly 76,000 Rhode Island students receive meals daily through the National School Lunch Program,” Perin-Monterroso wrote. “In the summer months, those students and many more are at risk of going hungry.” Last summer, she said, the program served nearly 470,000 meals.

“I’m reaching out today” she wrote, “to ask you to help us increase that number.” Perin-Monterroso has distributed materials directing individuals to call 211* for information about locations where summer meals are being distributed.

Disturbingly, statistics show that childhood poverty in Rhode Island has been steadily increasing, from 16.7 percent of children under 18 in 2006 – 2010 to 20.4 percent in 2011-2015, according to Kids Count’s national data center.

“Providing children with access to nutritious food beyond the school year and into the summer months has clear health, education, and economic benefits,” according to the NOKID Hungry social impact study.

Here are some of that organization’s findings:

  • Children experiencing food insecurity report higher rates mental illness.
  • Summer learning loss. Children from low-income families lose more than two months in reading achievement as compared to their peers from higher-income families.
  • Food insecure children are 31 percent more likely to be hospitalized, and the average pediatric hospitalization costs about $12,000.
  • Two months of reteaching costs account for 22 percent of the school year, and $1,540 per student

NOKID Hungry said that by closing the gap between the 21.7 million children receiving free lunch during the school year, and the 3.8 million who receive meals through federal nutrition programs in summer, potentially 17.9 million children would benefit, resulting in:

  • As many as one million fewer children feeling food insecure.
  • There would potentially be 22,000 less child hospitalizations annually, saving some $274 million.
  • Based on results of Maryland study, NOKID Hungry estimates that 81,600 more children would graduate high school annually.
  • “Up to $50.6 billion in reteaching costs could be saved.

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