After four years of significant growth, participation in the Summer Nutrition Programs showed a 4.8 percent national decline last summer, according to the Food Research & Action Center’s annual Hunger Doesn’t Take a Vacation: Summer Nutrition Status Report.

New York State’s national ranking for serving low-income children during the summer maintained at 4th highest in the nation, yet saw a slight 2.5 percent decline in overall average daily participation.

Summer meals play a critical role in closing the hunger gap and supporting the health and learning of low-income children when school is out. In 2016, 2,908 local sites served meals and snacks provided by 348 sponsors across the state. Not only do children stave off hunger as a result of free summer meals, they also benefit from the enrichment activities offered at the vast majority of sites — activities that keep them learning, engaged, and better prepared to return to the classroom in the fall.

The Summer Nutrition Programs are proven programs that are underutilized. This report identifies effective expansion strategies for improving participation in the programs, including making additional investments in summer enrichment and educational programs and state and district-level successes. It also explores the role of the Summer Electronic Benefits Transfer for Children (SEBTC) program in improving access to nutrition during the summer.