With most states slashing K-12 education budgets to close their deficits, many have asked why the feds don’t step in to help. However, the feds have always kicked in a little toward state education programs, and continue to do so—the National School Lunch Program being one of the more well-known examples.
Yet even some of this federal funding is being wasted as a result of state and local program cuts. According to a recent report by the California Food Policy Advocates, there has been a sharp decline in participation of federally funded summer meal programs due to the loss of summer school programs in California. In July, 2011, participation in the program was down 6% from 2010, and 30% lower than in July 2008, according to the Bay Citizen.
Each summer, the achievement gap grows, with affluent children having access to intellectually enriching activities like travel, camp, sports, and specialized classes that lower income children cannot afford. The health gap also grows, as lower income children lose access to school lunches, especially when summer school ends. This problem has gotten substantially worse in recent years, with the cancellation of many public summer school programs. Consequently, only 16% of the children who ate free or reduced lunch during the school year received free summer meals last July.