Making sure children have nutritious meals and keep their bodies moving all year long is one of USDA’s most important missions. Our Summer Food Service Program plays an important role in ensuring that all children get healthy meals during the summertime. We’re proud to say that in 2012, our partners helped to serve 144 million summer meals at 38,800 sites across the country. That translates to 2.3 million children served on a typical summer day.
But there is still a lot of work to be done. Unfortunately, only a small percentage of kids who rely on free and reduced price meals during the school year participate in the summer program. So this year we’ve set out to serve 5 million more summer meals. We need your help to meet that goal.
On Friday, Secretary Vilsack held a roundtable with anti-hunger advocates from Share Our Strength, Hunger Free Colorado, and the state of Arkansas to encourage more organizations to work with us as sponsor sites. During the discussion, he reiterated how important it is for advocates and leaders in communities across the country to redouble their efforts to address the summer meals gap. Click here to listen to the roundtable.
After the discussion, we hosted a twitter chat through our account, @USDANutrition, to spread the word about summer meals and what we’re trying to accomplish. One of things I mentioned during the chat is that we want to increase participation by eligible kids in summer meals in every community that needs it, but we’re paying particular attention to states with great need like Arkansas, California, Colorado, Rhode Island and Virginia. As the Secretary said, poor nutrition during summer months can set up a cycle of poor performance once school starts up again in the fall.
So what can you personally do to help? There are many ways to be a part of preventing summer hunger. One of the best things you can do is help us increase the number of sponsors who provide free meals and activities to eligible low-income children. Churches, schools, government agencies, camps and other local organizations can act as sponsor sites. Those sites also often need volunteers to lead fun activities or provide transportation. The best thing to do is visit our Summer Food Service Web page and start thinking about how you can best contribute.
With strong support from individuals, communities and partners nationwide we can reach more disadvantaged kids with nutritious meals when school is out.
For more information on becoming a SFSP sponsor or site, visit http://www.fns.usda.gov/sfsp/. To find a site in your community, call 1-866-3-Hungry or 1-877-8-Hambre.