McGovern raises awareness to prevent childhood hunger

 

Greenfield Recorder 07/08/2014, Page C03

By KATHLEEN McKIERNAN Recorder Staff

GREENFIELD —U.S. Rep. Jim McGovern spentMonday crisscrossing the 2nd Congressional District he represents to raise awareness about the federal Department of Agriculture’s Summer Food Service Program aimed at preventing childhood hunger.

Thirty-eight percent of children in Massachusetts are eligible for free and reduced price meals during the school year. During the summer months, however, those children have less access to healthy foods.

“I want to ensure that every eligible family that needs access to food this summer knows that this program is available,” said McGovern. “Our children should not lose access to healthy food just because the school year is over.”

According to the state Department of Elementary and Secondary Education, which administers the program, in Massachusetts, 11.9 percent of children live in food insecure households — a number that increases during the summer without school meals. Only about 18 percent of eligible children participate in the program. While 293,345 kids are eligible in Massachusetts, only 53,634 participate. Full participation would result in over 18 million additional meals going to children in need.

Last year, the federal summer feeding program provided 161 million meals nationally, feeding approximately 3.5 million children on a typical summer day.

Frequently, these families find it difficult to absorb the additional meal costs when school is not in session, according to the state. Without access to healthy foods, children become at risk for hunger and malnutrition when they return to school in September.

The program is a federally funded, state-administered program aimed at providing free nutritious meals to low-income children and teens during the summer.

There are eight free meal sites in Greenfield that run Mondays through Fridays.

The Green River Swimming and Recreation Area on Nashs Mill Road, Leyden Woods at 24 Leyden Wood Lane, the Greenfield YMCA, Greenfield Gardens (at 2 Pray Drive) offer lunch from 11:30 a.m. to 12:30 p.m. until Aug. 15. Greenfield Gardens, Greenfield YMCA and Leyden Woods also offer breakfast from 8 to 9 a.m.

Camp Kee-wanee serves lunch from 11:30 a.m. to 12:30 p.m. until Aug. 8.

The Federal Street School at 125 Federal St. and the Newton School at 70 Shelburne Road serve breakfast and lunch until July 31.

The intent of the tour was to increase public awareness of the program to have more families take advantage of it.

McGovern visited Greenfield, Athol, Leominster and Worcester.

He was joined by several federal, state and local officials, including the federal Health and Human Services Secretary John Polanowicz, state Rep. Paul Mark and Greenfield Mayor William Martin.