Meal programs expand summer nutrition for kids

other_state_newsJACKSON (AP) – A federal government-backed nutrition program seeks to provide two million meals to Mississippi schoolchildren this summer.

The program was announced Thursday by Department of Agriculture officials and community leaders.

“USDA’s summer meal programs help fill the gap for children who depend on free and reduced-price meals when they are in school,” USDA Food and Nutrition Service Administrator Audrey Rowe said in a news release.

The Summer Food Service Program will provide more than 30,000 meals a day in Mississippi — two meals a day per child — over the summer.

That’s an increase of 12 percent over the 1.85 million meals — 26,916 a day — provided last year at nearly 400 sites.

One-third of Mississippi’s children live in homes where access to good, nutritious food on a regular basis is limited, according to the Department of Agriculture.

Meals will be provided at schools, mobile sites, low-income housing units, churches and other locations.

Other launch events are scheduled during June in Jackson, Hattiesburg, Greenwood, Biloxi and Tupelo.

Magnolia Health Plan, a unit of St. Louis-based Centene Corp.; the Public Policy Center of Mississippi; and Mississippi Department of Education’s Office of Healthy Schools will sponsor regional events to promote the program.

The Agriculture Department targeted Mississippi and five other states to boost the program in 2014. The other states are Alabama, Illinois, Missouri, Nevada and Texas.