As you probably know, poor children get subsidized school lunched because in America those of us who don’t work for the Cato Institute have this crazy idea that malnourished children is a bad thing. And as you probably know, kids don’t go to school during the summertime. And yet as Melissa Boteach points out, children actually eat food during all seasons. Fortunately, the government does have a couple of programs that attempt to get summer meals to poor children, but unfortunately these programs are pretty limited in scope:
These programs have proven effectiveness, yet we fail to connect many eligible children with summer feeding programs and the food and enrichment activities they provide. Fortunately, Congress has the opportunity to make significant improvements to summer feeding in the upcoming reauthorization of the child nutrition programs, including strategies to better connect children to the programs.
One of the biggest limitations of the SFSP under the current model is the shortage of program sites. There are just 34 summer food sites for every 100 school lunch programs. Congress should ensure that more areas are eligible to serve summer meals in order to address this disparity.
These days in Washington it’s fashionable to invoke the next generation as a rationale for cutting spending, but the next generation will be much better off if we borrow more money at attractive interest rates to avoid malnutrition than it will be with less debt and more hunger.
It’s also worth noting the broader background here. One of the reasons kids from high-SES families do better in school than kids from low-SES families is that high-SES families provide more educational value outside the classroom. Consequently, when you shut schools down for months at a time you open gaps in learning achievement that get wider and wider after time. Summer vacation is as American as apple pie, but it’s also a really effective weapon of class warfare against poor kids. Well-designed expanded learning time is a very good idea.