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A better summer meals program

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SCOTT JAGOW: There is such a thing as a free lunch for poor kids in school during the summer, but only about one in five students actually eats those meals. A new report suggests the problem isn't money. It's paperwork. Hillary Wicai reports.


HILLARY WICAI: The federal government's summer meals program is similar to the one that helps get free or reduced price lunches to children during the school year. But once school is out, there often isn't anywhere for kids to go to get the meals.

Crystal Fitzsimons is with the Food Research and Action Center. She says massive red tape keeps many sponsors and sites from providing summer lunches.

But she says a pilot program put in place by Congress is promising.

CRYSTAL FITZSIMONS:"In 13 states they cut the paperwork significantly. And over the last 5 summers while it's been in existence, participation has actually grown by 41.3% compared to an 11.9% drop across the country."

Fitzsimons says taking that pilot program nationwide means another 3.5 million children could be fed. That equals nearly $189 million in federal funds that states aren't using.

In Washington, I'm Hillary Wicai for Marketplace.

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