The month of June has arrived, and thousands of 2016 Summer Food Service Program (SFSP) sites are gearing up to open.
The Summer Food Service Program, or Summer Meals Program as it is called, provides free, nutritious summer meals to children in need.
Children need free meals during summer
During the school year, an estimated 22 million children receive free and reduced – price meals through the School Breakfast and National School Lunch Programs (NSLP). When school breaks for summer, children who depended on these meals, go hungry.
As a case manager, I saw how the SFSP, funded by the U.S. Department of Agriculture (USDA), established itself as an invaluable tool in providing nutritious meals to children in need. I even saw how a 14-year-old girl refused to take advantage of it, even when a SFSP site was literally 10 steps away from her family’s front door. She didn’t know how fortunate she was.
One out of six
Not every child is able to participate in the SFSP. One out of six children eligible to receive free or reduced-price meals during the school year are able to continue receiving free meals during the summer months. With increased sponsor sites, however, the program can continue reaching children in need.
According to national statistics, 3.2 million children participated in SFSP on an average day in July 2014. An increase of about 213,000 from 2013.
And the program continues to grow.
Benefits of the Summer Food Service Program
Following is a list of things that children can benefit:
- Access to whole grains and a variety of fruits and vegetables (fresh, frozen, and canned) Sponsors of the SFSP are encouraged to provide foods that align with recommendations of the Dietary Guidelines for Americans. The guidelines, developed by a Federal advisory committee of researchers in the fields of nutrition, health, and medicine, provide information such as the estimated calorie needs, nutritional goals, and food sources for essential vitamins and minerals
- Access to local foods During the summer, family food budgets increase due to the lack of access to school meals. Access to summer meals helps cut grocery bills
- Educational and Enrichment Activities Children have unstructured time in the summer that’s filled by watching TV, or activities that don’t build their creative thinking skills. Activities at SFSP sites, such as books, help fuel children’s minds
- Help with making healthier food choices Children have access to fruit and vegetables so they can avoid unhealthy snacks like chips and soda
Schools, camps, parks and recreation centers, churches, and other public agencies, as well nonprofit agencies can become a sponsor.
Here’s where you can locate information on the program and find a food site