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Number of free summer meals for kids on the rise, report says

More Arizona kids are getting free summer meals to help their families stretch food dollars, according to a new report from the Food Research and Action Center .

It says more than 462,000 kids got free or reduced-price lunches in Arizona schools, but only about 60,000 get the free summer meals. One reason is that summer food is often tied to summer school, or other enrichment programs. Crystal FitzSimons is with the research group and says budget cuts have trimmed many programs.

“The programs are not serving all the kids that they should and part of the big problem—and this is true in urban, suburban and rural areas—is that there are not enough summer programs for low income children to keep them safe, engaged and active during the summer months,” FitzSimons said.

FitzSimons says another challenge is making meal sites convenient for families, especially in rural areas. Arizona added 32 summer meal sites in 2012, and fed 23 percent more children at more than 400 locations.