By Jesus Garcia, Special Assistant, Office of Public Affairs
Before coming to Washington, D.C., to work for the Administration for Children and Families, I served as a public affairs specialist for the U.S. Department of Agriculture’s Food and Nutrition Service in Dallas, Texas, for five years. During my tenure, I conducted a lot of outreach to help communities in the southwest learn about America’s nutrition programs and how they can help fight hunger.
Some of the highest rates of food insecurity are found in Texas and its surrounding states. My office built coalitions with school districts, city governments, faith and community-based organizations to help promote well-known programs like the Supplemental Nutrition Assistance Program (SNAP) and Special Supplemental Nutrition Program for Women, Infants, and Children (WIC).
But the one program I enjoyed working with the most was the Summer Food Service Program. This neat program is a federally-funded effort that provides free meals to eligible children when schools are out.
Although many children qualify for this program, very few participate.
During fiscal year 2013, FNS’ National School Lunch Program provided an average of 21.5 million children a free or reduced-priced lunch each school day. When schools let out for summer, less than 10 percent of those students participated in the Summer Food Service Program.
Luckily for families who are struggling, the Summer Food Service Program is working with school districts, nonprofits and cities this summer to keep school cafeterias open and having community centers provide a site where children can get a delicious free meal.
The Summer Food Service Program also helps to draw children into safe and fun activities filled with learning opportunities. The program encourages communities to provide safe places for children to be with other children and supportive adults. Children benefit nutritionally by receiving complete, wholesome meals. Parents benefit from some help in stretching their food dollars and by knowing their children are engaged in supervised activities.
Summer Food Service Program sponsors receive funds to provide meals that complement recreational and enrichment programs they already have planned.
Any child, age 18 and younger, can come to a summer food service site and eat a free meal. It isn’t necessary to sign up in advance or fill out any forms. Just show up.
To find the nearest feeding location this summer, call 1-866-3-Hungry (llama al 1-877-8-Hambre para asistencia en español). You can also visit www.whyhunger.org/findfood to find help getting food for your family.
To become a feeding site sponsor, visit http://www.fns.usda.gov/sfsp/how-become-sponsor