Friday, May 21, 2010

Spatial challenges to accessing USDA summer food programs for kids

The Carsey Institute has just published a policy brief "Challenges in Serving Rural American Children Through the Summer Food Service Program." In it, Barbara Wauchope and Nena Stracuzzi note that, while USDA-funded school lunch and breakfast programs serve 31 million students a year, food security decreases in the summer, when children are not attending school. USDA's Summer Food Service Program (SFSP) seeks to fill the void by contracting with schools, local non-profits, and similar organizations to provide the meals, often in connection with summer camps and activities. Yet, as Wauchope and Stracuzzi note, rural delivery sites are relatively rare because of the difficulty in achieving economies of scale. Further, even where there are delivery sites, children often cannot reach them because of lack of transportation. Thus rural children remain under-served by this USDA program, even as the needs of many rural children is great. (Read the last few paragraphs of this recent post, noting that in Newton County, Arkansas, a persistent poverty county that is at the most rural end of the Rural-Urban Continuum, more then 35% of children are living in poverty, and nearly half of the county's residents live more than a mile from a grocery store).

The Carsey Report also reminded me of a story I read about 10 days ago in the Arkansas Democrat-Gazette about the SFSP program. In it, Senator Blanche Lincoln (who happens to be chair of the Senate Agriculture Committee) was touting the experimental extension of the program for Arkansas and Mississippi through an initiative called "Extending Length of Operation Incentive." A press release from Lincoln's office explains the experimental incentive program and its possible impact in Arkansas:
There are more than 300 summer meal sites in Arkansas, but only one-third of those operate for 30 days or more during the summer. This project will provide an additional 50 cents per lunch increase in the reimbursement rate for Summer Food Service Program meals for sites that agree to stay in operation for 40 or more days throughout the summer. All of Arkansas’s Summer Food Service Program sites will be eligible to participate in the demonstration project.
But I had just driven through very rural reaches of Newton County and Madison County, Arkansas, and been reminded of the great distances (25 miles or more, some on dirt roads) that many children travel to get to school. I had seen many school buses parked overnight at the homes of their drivers, far from school. (Read a related story here and a related post here). This had left me wondering: how do those kids get to service centers during the summer? The short answer: many don't--when, that is, there are service centers in their school district's range.

1 comment:

eyelift said...

Good information. This would be really great cause and best service provide. This kind of more programmes are really needed for kids.