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Agriculture Secretary Promotes Summer Meals In Baltimore

BALTIMORE (WJZ) — Hundreds of city students miss out on nutritious meals when the summer starts. But the lunch lines at dozens of Baltimore schools are still open.

As Gigi Barnett explains, it’s part of a federal push to feed students who rely on school lunch.

During the school year, the lunch line at Hamilton Elementary-Middle School flows smoothly. Good nutrition feeds their drive to learn and blocks obesity.

Although school is out for the summer, the meals keep coming.

“We set a goal, and the goal is to increase, overall, the number of meals nationally by 10 million,” said Tom Vilsack, U.S. Secretary of Agriculture.

That’s why Baltimore is boosting its summer program by 20 percent at more than 400 lunch rooms citywide. It’s all part of the U.S. Department of Agriculture’s push to get food to kids who rely on free or reduced breakfast and lunch at school.

When summer begins, those meals disappear.

“Any child, Baltimore City kid, can come and eat. Even if you’re not taking classes, you can come and have a meal. Please, spread the word,” said Mayor Stephanie Rawlings-Blake.

“If we’re serious about having great futures for our children, then we have to be serious about making sure they’re well fed at home and at school,” said Vilsack.

U.S. Secretary of Agriculture Tom Vilsack says his office is also pushing to increase the number of students in the meals program because of the nation’s soaring youth obesity rate. His fear: national security is at stake.

“If we have a generation of kids who are overweight or a generation of kids who have not been well fed, then the number of young people fit for military service will shrink to the point where our national security can be compromised,” Vilsack said.

Last summer, school cafeteria workers across the nation served out 7 million more meals to students than they had originally planned. This summer, the USDA hopes to boost that number by 3 million.

If you’re looking for a summer meal site close to you in Baltimore, call 211.

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