May 20, 2004

Senate Agriculture Committee extends pilot summer lunch program for kids to Oregon

Wyden and Smith urged committee to increase summer availability of food to children who received free or reduced-price meals during the school year

Washington, D.C. At the request of U.S. Senators Ron Wyden (D-Ore.) and Gordon Smith (R-Ore.), the U.S. Senate Agriculture Committee has extended the Lugar Summer Food Pilot Program to include Oregon. The pilot program increases the availability of food to children who received free or reduced-priced meals during the school year but who cannot access such meals during the summer months.We cant allow hungry children to slip through the cracks for even a couple of months, Wyden said. With this action, Oregons hunger advocates will be able to focus more resources on feeding kids who otherwise might have empty stomachs during the summer.No one should go hungry, least of all children who need proper nutrition for the healthy development of their young minds and bodies, said Smith. This program will allow children to enjoy their summers instead of worrying where their next meal will come from.During the 2002-03 school year, almost 165,000 Oregon children received free and reduced-price lunch each day through the National School Lunch Program. These children still need the meals during the summer, but in July 2002 only 26,987 Oregon children participated in summer nutrition programs.The Lugar pilot simplifies the way school districts offer the Summer Food Service Program by streamlining paperwork and other administrative requirements. Because administration and overhead are often the biggest costs for food programs, this streamlining allows hunger advocates to focus their scarce resources on providing food to the hungry. The pilot also allows non-profits to participate in this simplified program, bringing these groups to bear in areas where schools cant provide access to summertime meals (for example, in rural areas where transportation costs may be too high).In states covered by the pilot program there has been at least a 9 percent increase in summer food program participation while states not covered by the pilot are still seeing decreases. With the addition of Oregon to the pilot program, thousands of additional children could be fed during the summer months.Extending the Lugar Summer Food Pilot Program has been a top priority of Oregon hunger advocates, including the Oregon Food Bank, Food for Lane County, and the Oregon Hunger Relief Task Force.Right now, we're only reaching about 18 percent of the eligible children in Oregon, and we can do better, said Patti Whitney-Wise, Executive Director of the Task Force. These changes will help meal program staff spend less time completing paperwork and more time doing what they do best: serving hungry children. We'd really like to thank Senators Smith and Wyden for all their hard work.Wyden and Smith asked for the program extension in a May 5 letter to the Agriculture Committee, which agreed to include Oregon in the pilot program during markup of the Child Nutrition Act this week.