A federal official says low-income children in Iowa are at greater risk of going hungry during the summer months as they’re away from various school meal programs.

Kevin Concannon, a former Iowan and the USDA’s Undersecretary for Food and Nutrition Services, says the agency is kicking off its Summer Foods Service Program this week.

“Summertime, when school is out, is the time of year an American child will go hungry or face food insecurity,” Concannon says.

He served as the director of the Iowa Department of Human Services from 2003 to 2008.

A recent USDA report concluded nearly 12% of Iowa households are “food insecure.” It means the adults and children who live in those homes sometimes go without food for a day at a time — and many eat food that’s cheaper, but with low nutritional value, just to have something to eat.

Concannon says poor nutrition in the summer can affect performance when students return to school in the fall.

He says, “If they’ve been faced with food insecurity or binging food at times to make up for periods when they’re uncertain or have gone hungry, it has an adverse effect on their ability to jump in right from the start and to benefit from the major investment we’re making in education.”

Jim Weill, spokesman for the Food Action and Research Center, says during the school year, about 22-million American children receive free or reduced-price breakfast lunch compared to three-million during the summer.

Weill says, “Only 14.6 children got summer meals last July for every 100 low-income students who received lunch in the 2010-2011 regular school year.”

There are dozens of locations across Iowa where free breakfast and lunch is available through the summer to qualifying children.