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Fighting Hunger with Summer Nutrition Programs

Summer Food Service Program (SFSP) provides more than 1.5 million nutritious meals and snacks to children during the summer months when school is not in session. With its partnership with the U.S. Department of Agriculture (USDA) the SFSP serve children and teens age 18 and younger. Hungry children are more likely to be chronically absent from school, and when they do attend, have a hard time concentrating. These children often feel powerless, afraid and hopeless, and all too often what little food they can access isn’t enough to provide the nutrition their developing bodies need.

In Altoona, Pennsylvania the local program has served more than just meals to at-risk children, it’s helped children learn vital life skills, and that’s making it quite a popular place. According to Co-Founder Maggie Crabb, the program started with only 30 kids, now it’s hit capacity at around 220 students. In their sixth summer of service, they had to close enrollment.

“We are a completely volunteer-based organization, and we only have so much space and so many volunteers, and so we can only handle so many kids,” said, Crabb.

In Utah, one in seven children face the pain and stress of hunger. Food-deprived children not only feel the physical pain of an empty tummy, but when an empty tummy makes it hard to concentrate in school, it hurts their future, too.

“Education and awareness of hunger in Utah are some of the key tools we use to help us with our mission of fighting hunger statewide,” said Heidi Cannella, communication specialist for the Utah Food Bank.

“When people realize that hunger affects everyone, not just people in certain parts of the state or certain demographics, it’s amazing to see their reaction.”

How Does It Work?

There are three key players involved: Sponsors, State agencies, and sites.

  1. Sponsors enter into agreements with State agencies to run the program. Schools, local government agencies, camps, faith-based and other non-profit community organizations that can manage a food service program may be SFSP sponsors. Sponsors get reimbursed by the program and may manage multiple sites.
  2. State agencies administer the program and communicate with USDA.
  3. Sites are places in the community where children receive meals in a safe and supervised environment. Sites may be in a variety of settings, including schools, parks, community centers, health clinics, hospitals, apartment complexes, churches, and migrant centers. Sites work directly with sponsors.  

How Can Your Organization Participate?

  1. Contact your State agency to see if you can become a site that serves summer meals. The State agency will help to see if you are in an eligible area that can serve summer meals and connect you with a sponsor organization.
  2. Promote the Summer Meals Programs to your community. Put up flyers and door hangers with information on where free summer meals are being served to help families find a nearby Summer Meals site.
  3. Provide fun activities for the kids & teens at your site to keep them coming back and to keep them physically and mentally active. Recruit teens to help at your site to give them responsibilities and new skills.
  4. Volunteer at other sites. Help serve meals or transport meals for other organizations that are involved with the Summer Meals Program. Organize physical or learning activities for the kids & teens.

For more information on where the nearest Summer Food Service Program is or how to get involved with operating your own, visit https://www.fns.usda.gov/sfsp/summer-food-service-program

Reference

Blakemore, W. (2019, June 27). Altoona Summer Program Providing Food and Fun to Kids Reaches Capacity. Retrieved from https://whotv.com/2019/06/27/altoona-summer-program-providing-food-and-fun-to-kids-reaches-capacity/

Davis, T. (2017, February 9). State programs fight to end childhood hunger in Utah. Retrieved from https://universe.byu.edu/2017/02/08/state-programs-fighting-to-end-childhood-hunger-in-utah/