- Associated Press - Thursday, June 2, 2016

BILOXI, Miss. (AP) - Almost 3 million free meals will be served to needy Mississippi children this summer.

The U.S. Department of Agriculture’s summer food service program will provide nearly 41,000 meals a day in the state. That’s up to two meals a day per child in some locations, for about 2.8 million meals throughout the summer.

Meals will be provided at schools, HUD multi-family housing complexes, recreation centers, low-income housing units, religious institutions and other places.

About 2.5 million meals were provided last summer.

Officials from the USDA, the U.S. Department of Housing and Urban Development, the state Department of Education and Magnolia Health launched the program Thursday in Biloxi.

The USDA’s Robin Bailey said the program helps “fill the gap” for children who rely on free or reduced-price meals at school.

“Children need good nutrition all year long,” Bailey said in a news release. “When school lets out, millions of low-income children no longer have access to a healthy school breakfast or lunch.”

Jerrie G. Magruder, the Mississippi field office director for HUD, said a regional housing authority added new feeding sites.

“There is no reason for a child in America to go hungry, but it is a sad reality for many kids in Mississippi,” Magruder said in the release.

The feeding program is available in areas where at least half of children qualify for free or reduced lunch. The USDA says one-third of Mississippi children live in homes with limited access to nutritious food.

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