COLUMBUS, Ohio (WTVN) -- Lawmakers, food bank and school representatives and other stakeholders are trying to spread the word about a federally-funded program to provide free breakfast and lunch to children during the summer.
More than 44 percent of the state's school students get a free or reduced price meal at school, according to Lisa Hamler-Fugitt with the Ohio Association of Foodbanks. However, when the schools are closed for the summer many of those students go hungry.
"Last summer in June, July, and August our foodbanks and food pantries fed over 850,000 thousand children."
Only a fraction of eligible Ohio children who get free or reduced-price lunches during the school year participate in program. One of the biggest factors is a lack of awareness about the program. It's not just about raising awareness among those who qualify for the program, but for sites to host it as well.
"We are really struggling to recruit schools, non-profit, local government organizations and faith-based organizations to provide the summer food service programs during the summer months," she said.
13 of the state's 88 counties: Brown, Clinton, Guernsey, Hancock, Harrison, Holmes, Mercer, Monroe, Morrow, Noble, Union, Williams, and Wyandot, didn't offer the program last year. Hamler-Fugitt hopes to change that this summer.
"Low income children that reside in those counties had no where to turn, so we're targeting all 88 counties, but with a special emphasis on these counties as well," she said.
Eventually she'd like to see a Meals-on-Wheels type program for children developed because many of the families that need the program lack the transportation to get to where it is being offered.