School is out for summer and consequently many children from low-income families in Marin are missing out on the free and reduced-price lunches they receive during the academic year, according to a report by California Food Policy Advocates.

The Oakland-based nonprofit estimates that 82 percent of the Marin kids who receive free or reduced-price lunches during the school year, some 4,538 children, are having to look elsewhere for their lunches during the summer.

Marin is not unique. The organization found that statewide, approximately 83 percent of California's low-income children -- 2.1 million kids who participated in the federally-funded lunch program during the school-year -- went without such lunches during the summer of 2012.

And the number is growing.

California Food Policy Advocates' analysis of data provided by the state Department of Education shows that the number of free and reduced-price summer lunches served across California fell approximately 40 percent from 2006 to 2012, despite the availability of federal funds to pay for the meals.

"One major cause of the decrease that we've seen in California over the last several years is that there is much less summer academic and enrichment programming happening across the state," said Tia Shimada, a policy analyst with California Food Policy Advocates.

Shimada said, "There are fewer summer schools operating and where they are operating, they are operating for a shorter period of time. That is by and large caused by budget cuts at the state and local level."


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Mary Jane Burke, Marin County superintendent of schools, said providing meals at a school during the summer can become problematic if the school isn't operating a summer program.

"It might sound easier than it is," Burke said.

Shimada said that while the number of summer lunches being served has fallen continuously since 2006, the number of children eligible for the meals has grown. The annual income level to qualify for the free federal school lunch program is $29,965 for a family of four. For a reduced-price meal, the income level increases to $42,643 for a family of four.

Nevertheless, there are five sites in Marin this summer where federally-funded lunches, and in some cases breakfasts, are being served. The San Rafael Elementary School District is serving breakfast and lunch Monday through Friday at Bahia Vista Elementary, 125 Bahia Way, and at Davidson Middle School, 280 Woodland Ave., and serving just breakfast at Venetia Valley Elementary, 177 N. San Pedro Drive.

"This is our district's decision to have a summer feeding program; it's basically because we see a need," said Elena Dibble, director of food services for the San Rafael Elementary School District.

"Plus," Dibble added, "the program is fully funded by the United States Department of Agriculture."

Dibble said a total of 800 kids are being fed lunch and 675 also get breakfast at the three sites.

The Marin City Community Services District also provides breakfast and lunch to kids 18 and younger at the Manzanita Recreation Center, 630 Drake Ave., as part of its eight-week summer program and during the six-week reading program sponsored by the Hannah Project at 170 Donahue St. in Marin City.

Johnathan Logan, director of the Marin City Community Services District, said the kids who attend the eight-week summer program range in age from 5 to 13. There is also a summer program for older teenagers from 4 to 8 p.m.; but there is no food program for them.

"It would be nice to offer supper to some of the older kids," Logan said.

Contact Richard Halstead via e-mail at rhalstead@marinij.com