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The Impact of Summer Meals
small child getting a brown bag summer meal from an adult

Research demonstrates that summer meals can have broad benefits on children's health, educational attainment and economic futures.

No Kid Hungry partnered with Deloitte on a Summer Meals Impact Analysis that explores the benefits of addressing summer hunger.  Addressing summer hunger can have clear health, education and economic benefits. In the short-term, the program can help mitigate summer weight gain, cognitive decline and summer learning loss among children. In the long-term, it may help increase high school graduation rates and reduce susceptibility to chronic disease. 

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    Parents’ Perspectives on Summer Meals
    father with his young daughter at a summer meals site. the daughter is holding a milk and a roll.

    Parents experience challenges in making ends meet during the summer. Research with parents demonstrates the need for summer meals, challenges and facilitators to participation and preferred communication channels.

    No Kid Hungry conducted a national summer meals survey with low-income parents to understand the need for and interest in summer meals and facilitators to participation.  The survey found that summer hunger is a serious issue.  More than half of families participating in free or reduced price lunch during the school year find it harder to make ends meet during the summer. Most low-income families (62 percent) report spending more on food during the summer, with an average increase of $316 more per month.  While most low-income families (68 percent) were interested in summer meals programs, only 40 percent are aware of where summer meal sites are located.  Families most trusted schools as a source of information about summer meals programs, followed by places of worship and grocery stores.   

    In a series of summer meals focus groups, we found that parents believe that the benefits associated with summer meal programs include free food and activities provided in a safe environment.  Barriers to participation include transportation, concerns about safety and legitimacy of sites, food quality and availability of activities.   Similar to the results of the national survey, focus group research found that parents would like to receive information about summer meals through schools. Parents also would like to receive information about summer meals in the mail, local radio and TV stations, community newspapers and local supermarkets.

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    Sponsors’ Perspectives on Summer Meals
    summer meals volunteer hands a meal to a child from the mobile meals van

    Program sponsors are community providers who ensure children and families have access to summer meals when school is out. Understanding the experiences and perspectives of summer meal sponsors can help advocates support summer meals program growth and help administrators to support sponsors.  

    Sponsor Survey Results Summary: No Kid Hungry and the Food Research and Action Center (FRAC) launched a national survey of summer meal sponsors that provided insight into their experiences, challenges, and opportunities to grow their programs.  Overall, more than 70 percent of sponsors were satisfied or very satisfied with the summer meal programs. Sixty-nine percent of sponsors offered activities at all of their sites, and 36 percent offered paid meals to parents at all of their sites.  If they had additional funds or capacity, summer sponsors most frequently said that they would increase the number of children served through current sites as a means to expand their program. The findings from the sponsor survey can help advocates to support growth in summer meals and help administrators to support sponsors.

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    State Campaign Case Studies
    image of a mobile meals van with cartoon painted all over it

    No Kid Hungry supported various case study evaluations of state efforts to increase summer meal participation, uncovering common themes that can help inform summer meals outreach and expansion efforts. States' successes can provide valuable lessons in how to end summer hunger.

    No Kid Hungry has supported evaluations of local summer outreach and expansion efforts across the country.  The research uncovered some common themes, including the importance of programming at summer meals sites, the need to focus on site and sponsor retention and the benefit of local outreach strategies.

    • Collective Impact Case Study: No Kid Hungry partnered with Community Wealth Partners to study intentional collaboration efforts in Detroit and Baltimore that led to a respective 29 percent and a 10 percent increase in summer meals in these cities.  The case study powerfully describes how the intentional collaboration efforts in Detroit and Baltimore helped reduce summer hunger.
    • Arkansas 2013: A Summer Meals Success Story: In Arkansas, the most effective way to recruit new summer meals sites was to offer small grants and hire local community members to work in their regions.  The evaluation recommends that future summer meals work focus on site and sponsor retention. The report also recommends that expansion efforts focus on organizations that have access to a kitchen, multiple site locations or strong relationships with other organizations in their communities.    
    • Colorado No Kid Hungry 2012 Summer Meals Evaluation: The evaluation recommends focusing on sponsor and site retention and strengthening capacity; emphasizing the need for programming at summer meal sites; developing local outreach strategies; and increasing coordination, communication and planning among partners to ensure long-term success of the program.
    • Maryland 2012 Evaluation:  The evaluation recommends focusing on recruiting and retaining sites with greater capacity, emphasizing the need for programming at summer meal sites and deploying canvassers at strategic times to increase contacts with households.


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