Missouri department seeks help to feed impoverished children

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COLUMBIA - The Missouri Department of Health and Senior Services is looking for organizations to help feed children who cannot get school meals during the summer.


More than one out of every five Missouri children lives in poverty according to the National Center for Children in Poverty. In total, 1,367,026 kids live under the poverty line. One of the biggest struggles these children face is an inability to get inexpensive, healthy meals.


To help these children, The Summer Food Service Program provides nutritious meals to kids under age 18 during the summer months when school breakfast and lunch programs are not operating by reimbursing sponsor orginizations for meals.


Department Spokesperson Ryan Hobart said schools, faith-based organizations, camps, private nonprofit agencies and local governments can all help.


“It’s something that doesn’t just affect one area of Missouri. We need people to pitch in and help out all across the state,” Hobart said.


The United States Department of Agriculture founded the program in 1968. The next year, about 99,000 children participated. In 2012, 2.28 million children participated in California alone.


The Food Bank for Central & Northeast Missouri is a long-time helper and has sponsored the Missouri program with multiple food sites. Last year, the food bank served 61,000 pounds of food to 1,500 kids in the Boone County area through the program.


“We’ve been doing it for several years now. It’s something we always look forward to every year,” said Stacey Brown who coordinates the food bank’s childrens' programs.


“In Missouri, we have a really strong program with a lot of great partners who make sure we can get these kids who get meals at a free or reduced price during the school year, that they’re also getting that service during the summer,” Hobart added.


The department hopes more organizations will join the program in order to help fight the issue of child poverty. It will accept applications from March 1 through May 15 to participate.