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Agriculture and Education Secretaries, Va. Leadership Kick off Meals Program

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Dorothy McAuliffe welcomed the secretaries of agriculture and education to Virginia Tuesday Dorothy McAuliffe welcomed the secretaries of agriculture and education to Virginia Tuesday
Virginia First Lady Dorothy McAuliffe Virginia First Lady Dorothy McAuliffe
U.S. Secretary of Agriculture Tom Vilsack U.S. Secretary of Agriculture Tom Vilsack
PETERSBURG, Va. (WVIR) -

Tuesday officially marks the start of the U.S. Department of Agriculture's summer meals program. Two of President Obama's cabinet secretaries and the first lady of Virginia met to highlight the importance of this service.

These leaders are calling on schools, food banks, and community service organizations to open their doors this summer for meal programs.

They also ask these groups to come up with opportunities for children to keep their minds busy.

At a Petersburg school Tuesday morning, Dorothy McAuliffe welcomed the U.S. Secretary of Agriculture and the U.S. Secretary of Education to Virginia. They’re hoping to get the word out that there are locations across Virginia that will be feeding kids during the summer.

The program is to help families who often rely on the schools to meet nutrition needs. These leaders say their concern is that many may not know about this offering.

"Unfortunately in Virginia about 87% of students who rely on free and reduced price school meals still aren't able to access a summer meal program each day,” said McAuliffe.

"This is a matter of national security, it is a matter of economic security, it is a matter of national achievement. It is that important,” said Tom Vilsack, U.S. Secretary of Agriculture.

Vilsack is encouraging schools, parks, and churches to arrange programs for children to be staying active and learning through the summer months.

To find a summer meals program in your community, click here.

Press Release from the Office of Dorothy McAuliffe:

PETERSBURG – Virginia First Lady Dorothy McAuliffe, U.S. Agriculture Secretary Tom Vilsack and U.S. Education Secretary John King joined students and other stakeholders at Robert E. Lee Elementary School in Petersburg today to celebrate the start of the U.S. Department of Agriculture’s (USDA) summer meals programs. The two secretaries were joined by U.S. Rep. Bobby Scott and Virginia Secretary of Education Anne Holton to raise awareness of the importance and availability of summer meals for children and teens.

"In Virginia, about 87 percent of students who rely on free or reduced price school meals miss out on summer meal programs each day,” said First Lady Dorothy McAuliffe. “We can and must do more to increase participation in these programs and connect more kids with the healthy food they need to be successful.”

“USDA has been committed to closing the food insecurity gap that occurs in the summer months when children no longer have access to the nutritious meals they’re offered in school,” said U.S. Secretary of Agriculture Thomas Vilsack. “We’re proud to have served more than 1.2 billion meals through the summer meals programs during our administration -- fueling kids and teens to be physically active, take advantage of summer enrichment opportunities, and thrive throughout the summer and when they return to school in the fall.”

In a joint letter, Agriculture Secretary Tom Vilsack and Education Secretary King urged local leaders to make sure that children do not go hungry this summer.  Among the ways to help, they outline providing summer meals to children at schools and community centers this summer; sharing information about nearby summer meal sites; and serving as a community champion.

“While many students look forward to the end of the school year and summer enrichment opportunities, for far too many students, summer means hunger,” said U.S. Secretary of Education John B. King Jr. “Working with USDA, we are grateful for the schools across the country who open their doors to provide children with healthy meals, even when the school year is over.”

Across the nation, approximately 22.1 million students receive free and reduced-price meals through the National School Lunch Program. But only about 1 in 6 of those (approximately 3.8 million) participate in the summer meals programs. That is the critical gap that the summer meals programs work to fill. In 2015, there were more than 66,000 meal sites serving over 190 million meals.

Virginia alone had 1,500 approved summer meal sites that provided over 4 million meals to kids and teens across the state.  First Lady Dorothy McAuliffe is leading the charge to end childhood hunger in the Commonwealth with No Kid Hungry Virginia, an initiative of the anti-hunger organization Share Our Strength. The First Lady and No Kid Hungry Virginia work with a diverse network of partners to ensure that kids have access to the healthy meals they need where they live, learn, and play.

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