Reducing the summer health gap

(April 2021) News from the Center for Child and Family Health Promotion Research.

April 7, 2021

Jiwoo Lee
Jiwoo Lee

Children tend to gain more weight over the summer months than during the school year. This is particularly true of children living in low-income households. These children also experience increased food insecurity during the summer. To bridge the summer nutritional gap and promote children’s well-being during the summer months, the United States Department of Agriculture has sponsored the Summer Food Service Program. Schools and nonprofit organizations can voluntarily serve as program sites and provide meals to children aged 18 or younger. In 2019, there were approximately 1,100 program sites providing meals and snacks to children in Minnesota.

Interestingly, descriptive characteristics and the health impacts of such an important program have not been well studied. Center member and Assistant Professor, Jiwoo Lee, PhD, RN, LSN, and her research team and mentors, including Center Director Jayne Fulkerson, PhD, and faculty with the School of Public Health, aim to address this research gap by investigating critical details about the summer food service program providers, participants and the quality of foods offered through the program.

Additionally, the team will assess changes of children’s food insecurity, diet quality and weight gain over the course of the program and the following school year. The research will be conducted in the summers of 2021 and 2022 funded by the Clinical and Translational Science Institute’s KL2 Scholars Program and the LaVohn Josten Public Health Nursing Research grant. Lee’s team believes the research will guide further improvement of the program, informing policy and contributing to improving children’s nutrition-related health.