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How FNS Partners Take Their Summer Feeding Sites to the Next Level

Children in Baltimore enjoy healthy offerings at one of the city’s summer meals sites.

Children in Baltimore enjoy healthy offerings at one of the city’s summer meals sites.

USDA’s Food and Nutrition Service partners serve a vital role in the success of the federal Summer Food Service Program (SFSP).  These important relationships are critical to helping operate and expand summer meals and sites so that no child or teen goes hungry when school is out.

Evaluating their best practices and listening to their anecdotes confirms that kids truly depend on these healthy meals over the course of the summer.  During the first day of the summer feeding program, the Hopkins County Family YMCA in Kentucky served over 500 meals.  But that’s not the only difference they made that day.  The director was at the store picking up supplies, when the cashier asked about her purchase.  The director explained the details of the program and the woman’s eyes filled with tears, as she relayed that her husband just lost his job and the family had become desperate.  She was put at ease knowing that the Summer Food Service Program will be available to feed her children this summer.

Even though the summer program is focused on feeding children and teens, there are parents that are going hungry as well.  The YMCA of Greater Indianapolis tackled this issue by partnering with the local university to get donated meals from their cafeteria to provide to parents in need.  This allows them to not only feed kids and teens, but they can offer the kids’ parents a free, healthy meal as well, compliments of the university.

The Y of Superior California hosts farmers markets on their front lawn.  Each kid in the meal program gets “Y Bucks” to purchase fresh produce to bring home for their families.  They also partnered with First Book and are giving away hundreds of free books to kids!  You can read more of the program’s success stories on their 2014 Summer Food Program Blog Tour.

YMCA isn’t the only partner focusing on enrichment activities in the feeding program for the children.  Boys & Girls Clubs of America runs over 1,900 sites across the country and plans to serve more than seven million meals this summer!  The Boys & Girls Club of Greater Bemidji in Minnesota used funds from both the Child and Adult Care Food Program and SFSP to offer reimbursable snacks to all club members for free.

The National Recreation and Park Association is another shining star.  NRPA has been helping support and expand summer meals through their Commit to Health program; a campaign that helps implement and evaluate healthy eating and physical activity standards in the nation’s parks and recreation sites.  The program provides funding in New York to hire additional staff to operate programs such as “Kids in Motion” and gives NYC Parks the ability to distribute up to 8,000 additional free meals over the summer.

There are many ways a feeding site can expand their program by using available resources from their community.  It’s important to take these innovative ideas and see how they can work in where you live.  To check out more best practices, please visit the Summer Food Service Program best practices.

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