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Kids Eligible for Healthy, Free Food

Thousands of Kids Eligibile for Free, Healthy Food

CORNING (WENY) -- The sun's out and kids are off for the Summer. Thousands of those kids who rely on reduced or free lunches during the school year are still eligible for those healthy meals through the Summer.
     Now, US senator Kirsten Gillibrand is pushing for more and easier accessibility to the Summer Food Service Program through a new bill called the Summer Meals Act.
     The Summer Food Service Program benefits children ages 18 and younger from low income households
     According to the Food Bank of the Southern Tier, nearly 34,000 local children receive these free and reduced price meals throughout the school year. They say during the summer only 18 percent of them get free meals through the Summer Food Service Program. So they're pairing up with local organizations to spread the word.
     The meals are typically available at summer camps, parks, schools, youth centers, and libraries.
     The Salvation Army in Corning is one of dozens of locations across the Southern Tier that participate with the Summer Food Service Program. Over 100 students are registered for its free Summer day camp, where they get free and healthy meals.    
     "A lot of these children get a free meal in school schools that's now not available to them," said Major Laurance Wittenberg. "So, I think a lot of them would probably not get a nutritious meal or go hungry over the Summer without lunch and breakfast programs like this brings. So it does fill the gap and there's an obvious need for it."
     In the meantime, Senator Gilibrand's new proposal aims to better integrate summer education and meal programs. The Summer Meals Act also would increase access to the meal programs by allowing areas with 40 percent of students getting free or reduced lunches during school to participate. Right now, the bar is set at 50 percent.
     There's an interactive map available online where you can look up locations that participate in the summer food service program here: http://www.icarol.info/PublicResourceDirectoryFrm.aspx?org=2198