Summer Time Shouldn’t be Hungry Time
Help Feed Hungry Kids through USDA’s Summer Food Service Program
By Kevin Concannon, USDA Under Secretary for Food, Nutrition and Consumer Services
In the midst of winter, it can be easy to forget those long, hot days of June, July and August. But it’s not too soon to start applying and planning for sponsorship to feed hungry children when schools close their doors for the summer.
More than 21 million children in the country receive free and reduced price meals during the school year, but when summer rolls around, only about 1 in 10 of those kids ( 2.3 million) get free meals through federal summer feeding programs. Clearly, there is a gap that needs filling.
Enter USDA’sSummer Food Service Program. The federal government understands that kids are at higher risk of going hungry during the summer months, and we are working to fill that void. The important work of feeding our low-income kids, however, can’t be accomplished by government alone. You or your organizations have an important role to play.
Faith-based, community and private non-profit organizations are pivotal in the lives of needy children. And schools, churches, recreation centers, playgrounds, parks, and camps are all eligible and encouraged to serve SFSP meals in neighborhoods with a high percentage of low-income families. These locations, by their very nature, offer safe and familiar environments and are places children gather during months when school is closed.
But feeding hungry young people requires commitment. Sponsors must be able to provide a capable staff, managerial skills and food service capabilities. Sponsors may provide their own meals, purchase meals through an agreement with an area school, or contract for meals with a food vendor. And don’t forget to register your summer feeding sites for the National Hunger Hotline at1-866-3-Hungry or 1-877-8-HAMBRE.
It’s also important to note that the most successful summer programs offer activities for kids. Children are much more likely to come out for a meal when there is an activity to keep them there. These can include anything from sports, tutoring and arts and crafts, to more creative activities with community partners. Developing partnerships with other community organizations is often the key to being able to offer great activities.
Last June, Agriculture Secretary Tom Vilsack launched the first-ever National Summer Food Service Program Week: “Food That’s In When School Is Out.” This year’s campaign is set for June 11-15 and will continue to promote federal and non-government initiatives across the country designed to feed low-income children during the summer.
To learn more about the Summer Food Service Program or to participate in one of USDA’s free webinar sessions on opportunities to provide summer meals, please visitwww.summerfood.usda.gov. These helpful webinars will highlight the program, offer an understanding of how SFSP works, detail sponsor roles and responsibilities, and provide outreach tips and other resources to get started.
Together we can continue to tackle childhood hunger and ensure kids receive the nutritious meals they need in summer, and throughout the year. We look forward to working with you to meet that goal.
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