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Many Low-Income Utah Families Not Taking Advantage of Free Summer Meals

Summer vacation is here, and that means many low-income Utah children may be missing meals that were provided for free or reduced price in school. A national report from the Food Research and Action Center shows that Utah is doing slightly better than the national average at feeding these children through the summer, but that many are still falling through the cracks.

Alyssa Geisler is an Americorps Volunteer for Utahns Against Hunger. At the moment, she is checking her database to help a grandmother in Davis County find the closest free lunch available for her grandchild. Geisler's phone has been ringing steadily with similar requests all morning, but she says there are still many Utah children who need nutritious meals in the summertime and aren’t getting them.

“We’re serving about 15 out of 100 kids that get those free meals during the school year, and we could be serving a lot more during the summer to fill that nutrition gap,” said Geisler.

Utahns Against Hunger is trying to raise awareness about the almost 200 sites around the state where children can get a free meal. Most are in schools; some are in churches, parks, and community centers. Geisler says more people in Utah are starting to take advantage of the meals.

“We are seeing those numbers increase which is sort of good and bad,” she said, “We hope that we don’t have to have as many kids on free and reduced price lunch, but it’s good that more are coming to the summer food sites and getting those free meals if they need them.”

;Geisler says increasing participation in summer food programs also means more federal dollars for the state, as the providers are reimbursed for the number of meals served. In Utah, families can find nearby meal sites by visiting Utahns Against Hunger or by calling 1-800-453-FOOD.

Andrea Smardon is new at KUER, but she has worked in public broadcasting for more than a decade. Most recently, she worked as a reporter and news announcer for WGBH radio. While in Boston, she produced stories for Morning Edition, Marketplace Money, and The World. Her print work was published in The Boston Globe and Prior to that, she worked at Seattleââ
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