The saying goes, it takes a village to raise a child. In this same context, it takes all of us working together to feed hungry children, especially in the summer months when even more of our nation’s kids go without proper nutrition. The government, however, cannot solve this challenge alone.
Over 20 million children receive free or reduced-price lunch during the school year through USDA’s National School Lunch Program. For many of them, school meals are the only complete and nutritious meals they consume, and in the summer, many simply go without. It is USDA’s goal to ensure that no child in the U.S. goes to bed hungry. But to accomplish this, we need the community’s support.
For this reason, USDA sought to engage the faith-based community to serve as important partners in reaching those in need. Many times the church and the local community are the first stops the distressed look when they need a helping hand.
I met with several Hispanic ministers from the Association of Ministers of Greater Miami in February to discuss the need for summer feeding sites as part of USDA’s Summer Food Service Program (SFSP). Following a very productive dialogue, I was invited back to Miami recently to speak with more than 200 Hispanic ministers at their monthly Association meeting. I addressed the relevance of our Summer Food Service Program and Supplemental Nutrition Assistance Program in light of the economy. I also brought along Florida state representatives from the Department of Children and Families and the Department of Education that administer these programs. With their help, we can forge better opportunities to facilitate outreach.
The meeting inspired several of the ministers to see how their churches could become summer feeding sites, and how they could help facilitate access to SNAP for both their congregations and communities. And out of this, a training workshop has been scheduled for March 24 to train churches on how to host a summer feeding site and to assist them with the application process.
It only takes one summer feeding site to feed a hungry child. The more available, the better chance no child goes hungry when school is out. It takes a concerted effort, the federal and state government agencies, as well as our faith-based and community partners, to make this happen.
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