Children in Kalispell, Mont., enjoy locally sourced meals as well as time in the garden at SFSP sites. Photo credit: Jessica Manly, FoodCorps service member
As the school year draws to a close, many program operators that help keep our nation’s children nourished and active are just ramping up. When school is out, many school districts and an array of nonprofit partners step up to offer healthy summer meals through USDA’s Summer Food Service Program (SFSP) and Seamless Summer Option. Options that provide children who rely on free and reduced price meals access to the nutrition they need to return to school healthy and ready to learn.
With the warm summer sunshine and the sweet taste of the season’s bounty here, it’s a great time to reflect upon some best practices for a flourishing summer meals program. We’re highlighting three examples that emphasize replicable strategies for bringing local, nutritious foods and educational activities to children throughout the long summer break. Read more »
Every day, millions of students are able to enjoy a nutritionally balanced, low-cost or free lunch thanks to the National School Lunch Program. Everyday they’re in school, that is. But what happens to these children when school lets out during the summer? That’s when vital programs offered by USDA’s Food and Nutrition Service come into play. The summer meals program defends against hunger – ensuring that millions of the most vulnerable Americans have the energy they need to perform at work and school by receiving a healthy meal or snack when school meals are not available. Those meals are served at a variety of community centers throughout the country.
In the summer of 2014, USDA set a goal of serving 10 more million meals than in the summer of 2013 through the two programs that comprise USDA’s summer meal programs: USDA’s Summer Food Service Program and the National School Lunch Program’s Seamless Summer Option. With the help of partners, elected officials, and community leaders across the country, the goal was exceeded. We now want to build on that momentum. We’ve set new goals and need your help. Read more »
Volunteers from the Children’s Reading Foundation of Doña Ana County provide free books and read stories during lunch to help kids return to class ready to learn.
Children who live in the Franklin Vista Apartments in Anthony, N.M., didn’t have to walk far to receive a healthy breakfast and lunch this summer, thanks to Gadsden ISD Food Service Director Demetrious Giovas. He made sure children there were able to gather under the covered porch of the apartment community center for a nutritious meal. The school district set up tables each day to ensure the kids had access to healthy food while school was out of session.
For the first time, Gadsden ISD provided daily breakfasts and lunches to children at apartments through the Seamless Summer Option of the National School Lunch Program. Food was prepared at the local elementary school, where it was distributed to 14 sites including Franklin Vista Apartments, as well as churches, other community-based facilities and schools. Throughout the summer, sites sponsored by the school district provided an average of 2,000 lunches and 1,900 breakfasts each weekday. Read more »
Bellies full from lunch, children at Old Plank Estates in Butler, joined USDA Rural Development State Director Thomas Williams and other partners in the USDA Summer Food Service Program (SFSP) to celebrate National Farmers Market Week. Old Plank Estates, a USDA and HUD funded Multi-Family Housing Complex, is a distribution site for the SFSP, administered by the Pennsylvania Department of Education, with food service provided by the Paul Lawrence Dunbar Community Center. Lunch is served daily to 20-30 children from the complex. In honor of National Farmers Market Week, Freedom Farms brought a bushel of fresh picked nectarines to the children and talked with them about fresh foods. As an added bonus, Freedom Farms is a new partner in the program, offering to donate fruit each day and to help the children plant a garden at the complex next spring.
They looked like apples to the twenty-seven children who were waiting patiently in line for lunch as part of the USDA Summer Food Service Program (SFSP) at Old Plank Estates in Butler, PA. But in fact, Freedom Farms, a local farmers market, brought a bushel of fresh picked nectarines for the children in honor of National Farmers Market Week. Lisa King from Freedom Farms explained to the children that, while nectarines may look like apples, they’re more like peaches without the “fuzz”. Giggling, with juice running off their chins, the children enjoyed the foreign fruit.
The USDA program is administered in Pennsylvania by the Department of Education. Old Plank Estates, a USDA Rural Development and Housing and Urban Development funded multi-family housing complex, is partnering with the Paul Laurence Dunbar Community Center to provide the meals to the children. As an added bonus, Freedom Farms is a new partner in the program, offering to donate fruit each day and to help the children plant a garden at the complex next spring. Read more »
FNS Regional Administrator Pat Dombroski, with youth at a summer meals site run by the Western Sussex Boys & Girls Club in Seaford, Del.
Earlier this summer, I had the opportunity to see the many happy faces of children playing on the recreational fields of the Western Sussex Boys & Girls Club in Seaford, Del. They were there as part of a Summer Food Service Program showcasing USDA’s Eat Smart. Play Hard Campaign. It was easy to get caught up in the excitement generated by the Power Panther, the campaign’s mascot, as he danced through the crowd of more than 500 young people. And after enjoying face painting and organized games, the kids were able to relax and enjoy a healthy cook-out style meal.
When school lets out, millions of our nation’s children no longer have access to healthy school breakfast or lunches. Of the 21 million children who receive free and reduced-priced meals through the National School Lunch Program during the regular school year, only 3.5 million participate in summer meal programs. USDA’s summer meals programs aim to fill the hunger gap for our children, and by the looks of the impressive site in southern Delaware, they were meeting that goal. Read more »