School may be out for the summer, but kids 18 and younger in 16 Utah counties can keep getting school lunch.

With gasoline and food prices hitting record highs, having enough to eat is a particularly difficult problem for the one in seven Utah households who chronically struggle to have enough food, said Gina Cornea, director of Utahns Against Hunger.

"The summer months are especially difficult for the 32 percent of schoolchildren who access free and reduced-price meals at school," Cornea said.

The summer food program is a federally funded meal program that provides free lunch and breakfast at some locations to children and replaces meals children access during the school year, she said.

The program is administered by school districts and cities. Site locations are typically at parks, community centers and schools and will provide 1 million meals to Utah children this summer. Interested families can call either 801-328-2561 or 1-800-453-3663 for locations. No enrollment or identification is needed.

Cornea said the program provides many children with their only nutritious meal of the day, noting that nearly 80,000 Utah children live in poverty and that they receive a third to half of their daily nutritional requirements from school meals.

Utah has the 10th-highest incidence of food insecurity with hunger in the country, according to the USDA. That means 14.5 percent of Utahns (112,000) are unsure where their next meal is coming from, and 5.1 percent of Utahns (35,000) have experienced hunger in the past year.

Cornea said that the summer food program, which is not new but is underutilized according to the sponsoring school districts and community centers, could be especially helpful in stretching the family budget.

Utahns Against Hunger is a statewide advocacy group that focuses on federal nutritional policies and practice.


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