Low-cost or free meals are given to 22 million kids by the National School Lunch Program throughout the school year. However, what about when the school is off in the summers? Not every child can afford a healthy and nutritious meal. This is where the Summer Food Service Program comes into play.
Let’s get into the details of this program to see how it works.
What is a Summer food service program?
The Summer Food Service Program, also known as the summer lunch or summer meal program, provides free meals to teens and kids up to the age of 18, during the 3 months of summer vacations. The handicapped individuals taking part in school activities, who might be older than 18 years, are also eligible to participate in the Summer Food Service Program.
Community centers, schools, park districts, churches, libraries, food banks, and other establishments join hands together to provide the underprivileged children with nourishing meals throughout the summers.
During the planned meal hours, teens and kids can come to these supervised and safe summer food service program sites and eat a healthy meal for free. Sometimes, kids are also provided with lunch and breakfast to go. No income proof or paperwork has to be submitted for receiving free lunch or breakfast.
The funding of Summer food service program
The federal government funds the majority of the summer meal programs through USDA (the United States Department of Agriculture). These meals are then purchased and delivered by the food banks to the existing community programs for youth. In 2020, approximately 220,000 children were served 7 million meals by the Feeding America network through the Summer Food Service Program.
Local food banks also operate some of the summer food service programs. These food banks include the School Pantry Program and the Backpack Program. These food banks are funded by the community as well as they get support of corporate donors.
How can you become a part of the program?
It can be a difficult task for deserving families to find out about these programs. The most important thing that you can do is share information regarding the Summer Food Service Program with your deserving and needy friends, family, and neighbors. You can share your story if you or any of your family members ever had a free meal from the Summer Food Service Program. It is important to ensure people that it is completely okay to ask for help sometimes and they are not alone through their financial struggles.
Another thing you can do to help is asking the chosen officials to keep this federal program going. You can also make donations to one or multiple food banks out of the 200 food banks included in the Feeding America network. You can provide your voluntary services to act as a server through the summer meal programs.
Summer meal programs and the pandemic
Though the Summer Food Service Programs are still running, certain precautionary measures have been taken by the local free meal sites for keeping the communities safer. Many schools are providing ready-made meals that kids can receive while following social distancing rules and take home. Some Summer Food Service Program sites are also providing pre-packed a week worth of groceries, so underprivileged families can use them for cooking. Free meals are also being delivered at public housings, bus stops, or different central locations. To stay updated with the latest information and details, visit the website for the Summer Food Service Program and find out how this program is helping kids.
Finding the program in the community
It can be difficult to discover summer meal programs. There are some simple ways you can look for the nearest Summer Food Service Program site in your community. With the help of the No Kid Hungry initiative, you can write FOOD and text it to 877-877 to find the nearest meal program site. The nearby location address will be then sent in a message. Message and data rates apply to this message.
You can also call at 1-866-348-6479. This is the USDA Hotline which can inform you about your nearest Summer Food Service Program sites. Otherwise, you can inquire about the local food banks. Use the food bank locator for searching food sites with the help of zip codes.
The summer food service program sites
To feed children, summer meal program sites play a significant role during the summer vacations. Healthy snacks and meals are not the only things provided by these sites, but they also offer mental and physical activities to keep teens and children engaged as well as motivated enough to keep coming back. The incorporation of these low-cost or free activities in the Summer Food Service Program boosts attendance. These activities also make this whole experience more fun for everyone. Sometimes community partners show willingness to participate in activities for families or children. Local businesses might also offer to provide toys, books, and other things for enhancing the spirit of the program.
Youngsters doing community service can also benefit from the Summer Food Service Program by volunteering to provide their services. The free meal program sites are not just for countering hunger in kids but they also act as a source of satisfaction for parents, because they know their kids are in good hands and receiving healthy and nutritious meals.