Rita Landgraf, Secretary
Jill Fredel, Director of Communications
302-255-9047, Cell 302-357-7498
Date: February 17, 2012
NEW CASTLE (Feb. 17, 2012) - Five thousand students in New Castle County will participate this year in the Summer Feeding Program for Children, a new project to help families feed children who don't have dependable access to food during the summer.
The Delaware Department of Health and Social Services' Division of Social Services was awarded a grant from the U.S. Department of Agriculture to help families buy healthy food during the summer for children who currently receive free or reduced-price meals at school. Additional program details will be announced at 2:30 p.m. Feb. 24 at William Penn High School near New Castle.
Collaborating with the Delaware Department of Education, this initiative will involve students in the Red Clay, Colonial, Christina and Appoquinimink school districts in pre-kindergarten through 12th grade. The program will conduct a lottery to randomly select 5,000 children from those families who sign consent forms provided to them. Letters to parents, which include the consent forms, will be mailed starting next week.
To be eligible to participate in the program, children already must receive free or reduced-price meals from the four school districts.
"Hunger doesn't disappear when school lets out for the year," Gov. Jack Markell said. "We can reach more Delaware children who otherwise might not get enough to eat during the summer months. Children deserve their greatest chance at success. No child should suffer in learning or in life because they are hungry."
In Delaware, more than 60,004 children rely on school nutrition programs as their primary source of healthy meals. Research indicates that 14.8 percent of Delaware's children are classified as food insecure, which means they don't always know where they will find their next meal. These problems are intensified when schools let out for the summer.
Families who are chosen for the project will receive up to $60 per month for each school-age child in the home. Electronic benefits cards, which will be sent to parents, will be activated June 8 and are valid through Aug. 29. Users can buy non-cooked foods from merchants who accept food benefits. The cards cannot be used at fast-food stores or restaurants.
"DHSS is very excited to partner with the Department of Education and four New Castle County School Districts to deliver food benefits to school children during the summer months," DHSS Secretary Rita Landgraf said. "It enables us to test a different delivery system, the electronic benefit transfer card that we use for food stamps, to replace the free and reduced-price meals that children received during the school year. It's another step in eradicating childhood hunger."
Delaware joins 10 other states in participating in this initiative.
"Children concentrating on their empty stomachs can't concentrate on the school work in front of them," Secretary of Education Dr. Lillian M. Lowery said. "Programs such as this are important to help us meet all of the needs of our students." Insufficient nutrition puts children at risk for illness and weakens their immune system. The immature immune systems of young children, from birth to age 5, make them especially vulnerable to nutritional deprivation and as a result, their ability to learn, grow and fight infections is adversely affected.
"This grant from the USDA will provide much-needed meals to children who might not otherwise have access to healthy, no-cost food during the summer," said Sen. Tom Carper, D-Del. "Programs like this are vitally important to keeping Delaware's students healthy and strong when they aren't in school, while additionally encouraging healthy eating habits that will serve our kids for the rest of their lives."
"Ensuring that kids have healthy food to eat during the summer months is an extremely important investment in both their emotional and physical well-being," said Sen. Chris Coons, D-Del. "Children shouldn't have to worry about where their next meal is coming from any season of the year. The Summer Feeding Program will ease the minds of 5,000 families in New Castle County, and I commend the U.S. Department of Agriculture for supporting this very worthy DHSS program."
"Too many Delaware families struggle to provide their children with healthy, nutritious food, and their challenges don't go away when schools let out for the summer," said Rep. John Carney, D-Del. "This USDA grant will help Delaware children maintain healthy eating habits all year round, so that when school starts in the fall, they are focused and ready to learn."
USDA studies have found that insufficient nutrition may hinder the ability of children to function normally.
Potential problems include: A higher risk for chronic health conditions such as anemia and asthma. A higher risk of being hospitalized. More frequent instances of oral health problems. Poorer physical quality of life, which may prevent them from fully engaging in daily activities.
Greater risk of truancy and school tardiness during the school year. Behavior problems including fighting, hyperactivity, aggression, anxiety, mood swings, and bullying.
For more information about the Summer Feeding Program for Children, go to www.dhss.delaware.gov/dhss/dss/index.html , or contact Ray Fitzgerald at (302) 255-9645.
A press conference announcing the Summer Feeding Program for Children will be held at 2:30 p.m. Feb. 24 in the entry lobby at William Penn High School near New Castle.
Delaware Health and Social Services is committed to improving the quality of the lives of Delaware's citizens by promoting health and well-being, fostering self-sufficiency, and protecting vulnerable populations.