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Bill Prioritizes Rural Schools for Summer Food Program

A bill proposed by House Republicans would prioritize low-income children in rural areas for a federal summer food pilot program, according to a recent story by Politico.

The bill proposes $27 million for schools in rural counties to run the pilot program, which since 2010 has targeted low-income students in both rural and urban areas. The program was initially appropriated $85 million with the aim to increase participation in the U.S. Department of Agriculture's Summer Food Service Program, which reaches only a fraction of students who qualify for free or reduced price lunches.

A 2013 report to Congress by the U.S. Department of Agriculture Food and Nutrition Service said that the Summer Food Service Program "has not achieved the same level of program participation as school meal programs achieve during the school year." Only about 3.3 million children received meals in July 2012, even though 21.5 million children received free or reduced-price lunches daily in 2012.

The pilot program is intended to develop and test new methods of providing food to low-income children while schools are closed during the summer. Since 2011, the program has experimented with meal delivery and has provided backpacks of food to children who may not have access to a food site every day of the week. The program has also provided some low-income households with up to $60 a month on an EBT card to mitigate summer food costs.

The report concluded that while these efforts do reach additional children, "the reach remains limited." To increase participation, some school districts have independently bought food trucks to provide the summer meals for students.  

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