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What Parents Want

In the February 2013 issue of School Nutrition, author Cecily Walters examined summer feeding programs that provide breakfast, lunch and snack—or a combination thereof—to kids during the long break from school. The article highlighted the participation gap in the number of students who receive summer meals, as well as in the number of programs being offered.

To develop strategies for overcoming barriers to participation in summer meal programs, school nutrition operators and other child health advocates need to understand what keeps parents from ensuring their children take advantage of this service. Share Our Strength’s No Kid Hungry campaign conducted focus groups with low-income African-American, Latino and Caucasian parents with children ages 6-18 in urban, rural and suburban populations. Summarized below are some of the key findings, and these may aid you in developing your summer meal plans for 2013. Parents:

  • demonstrated a low awareness of free summer meals programs, but subsequent high interest;
  • identified barriers to participation, which include transportation, questions about safety and legitimacy of the sites, food quality, availability of activities and availability of low-cost or free meals for parents;
  • preferred summer meals sites at schools and churches;
  • preferred to receive information about summer meals programs any place they and their kids frequent, but specifically from schools, in the mail, on local radio and TV stations, in community newspapers and at grocery stores;
  • found effective outreach materials showcase various ages and races of children enjoying activities and fresh fruits and vegetables; and
  • indicated that phone, website and text messages were preferred methods to learn more about summer programs.