Boise, ID.  –  Idaho ranks in the top 10 for participation rates in summer lunch programs for kids, according to a new report.

The Food Research and Action Center’s analysis, released today, found that about one in five Idaho students who are part of the free and reduced-price lunch program during the school year also got meals from Summer Nutrition Programs in 2017.

Kathy Gardner, director of the Idaho Hunger Relief Task Force, said she is happy to see so many kids in the state getting meals but noted that there’s room to expand.

“As far as food insecurity in Idaho, especially for our youth and our students, summer is absolutely the hungriest time of the year,” she said. “and we know hunger doesn’t take that summer vacation.”

Meals with Summer Nutrition Programs are sponsored by the U.S. Department of Agriculture. FRAC also released a report on summer breakfast programs, which showed participation rates are much lower than for lunch programs across the country. Gardner said she’d like to see Idaho explore the USDA’s breakfast program more.

Joey Schueler, director of operations for the Boys and Girls Clubs of Ada County, said these meal programs are an important resource for working families.

“Cost of living, housing, utilities, extracurricular activities for the children – you know, it adds up,” he said. “And so, if there’s any way we can help those families ensure that their kids are not just getting fed but getting well fed, with highly nutritious meals, that’s obviously a goal that I think every Idaho citizen should support.”

Schueler said setting kids up with healthy eating habits also saves on health-care costs in the long run. More than 86,000 households in Idaho struggle with food insecurity, according to FRAC.

The report is online at frac.org.

Eric Tegethoff, Public News Service