- Associated Press - Sunday, March 16, 2014

LAS VEGAS (AP) - Officials are trying to ramp up a federally funded program that provides lunch to students when school isn’t in session, putting special focus on Nevada and 11 other states that have especially low participation.

About 160,000 schoolchildren in Nevada are eligible for free or reduced-price lunch because of low family income, but only about 10,000 have access to the lunch program during the summer, according to U.S. Department of Agriculture Undersecretary Kevin Concannon. Some can’t count on steady meals during the long break.

“The time of year in which a child is most likely to go hungry is in the summer,” he said.

While 175 sites in Nevada hosted the meal program last summer, USDA officials are working to increase that number and put sites closer to students who need food.

Audrey Rowe, administrator of the USDA’s Food and Nutrition Service, visited the state earlier this month to meet with community leaders about adding more locations.

Concannon said the department is seeking churches, clubs and community organizations that can operate sites on their properties during the summer. Groups that are interested are asked to contact the state department of education for information.

“The school summer program is really an effort to reduce hunger and reduce food insecurity for kids under 18,” Concannon said. It “is intended to provide a bridge between the edge of one school year and another one, so they’ve had a healthy summer of growth and activity and will be ready to learn when school starts up again.”

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