Summer food service programs | Free healthy meals for kids

The National School Lunch Program provides 22 million kids with reduced-price or free meals throughout the whole school year. But what happens during summer vacations? Underprivileged children can’t afford healthy and nutritious meals every day. A child must not sleep hungry and this where Summer Food Service Programs come into play.

The purpose of SFSP & eligibility

The SFSP, also called the Summer Meals Program, provides children that are 18 or younger and belong to low-income vicinities with healthy meals. The disabled people who are over 18 and participating in special school courses for physically and mentally disabled individuals are also qualified to receive free meals from SFSP.

The Summer Food Service Program’s funding comes from the Agricultural Department of the United States. These state-sponsored programs aim to provide kids with healthy meals when the schools are closed. SFSP doesn’t require any kind of application or registration. These meals must meet the nutritional standards set by the state. All snacks and meals provided by SFSP must contain servings of proteins, vegetables, milk, fruits, and grains.

The summer food service program funding

As mentioned above, the Department of Agriculture (USDA) provides the Summer Food Service Program’s funding and then these meals are purchased by food banks and delivered to the several programs. In 2019, approximately 220,000 children were provided with 7 million meals by the food banks network under the Summer Food Service Program.

In Pennsylvania, the Department of Education is responsible for administering the whole federal funding procedure towards the Summer Food Service Program. These programs can also be sponsored by non-profit establishments and they are later reimbursed for serving quality meals to the eligible children.

Moreover, local organizations including non-profit organizations, religious organizations, private/public schools and others also contribute to keep the Summer Food Service Program afloat.

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The summer food sites

The sites chosen for providing kids with free meals are familiar and safe locations where naturally children gather around during summers. Any teen or kid who visits these sites at the scheduled hours gets a meal for free. However, don’t underestimate the capability of these food sites as they don’t just provide food. They also act as a nurturing environment for kids and foster physical and learning activities. Different nutritional games and recreational activities are also conducted on these sites, teaching children how a good diet is maintained.

SFSP also provides an amazing opportunity for youth doing community services, as they can volunteer to be the servers at the feeding sites. These sites not only counter hunger in children, but also assure the parents that their kids are fine and being supervised when they cannot supervise them themselves.

Summer food service programs during the pandemic

The Summer Food Service Programs have been running through the COVID-19 pandemic, however, the local feeding sites have implemented certain changes to keep the communities safe. Grab to go meals are being offered by some Summer Food Programs, keeping in mind the social distancing rules. Some food service programs are also offering pre-packed groceries, lunches, and breakfasts for many days. In some areas, meals are also being distributed in schools while public housing, bus stops, and other locations are also getting meal delivery services.

How can you help?

It can be difficult to find a Summer Food Service Program. Many families are even unaware how easily accessible they are. The best manner you can help is via telling your deserving neighbours, friends, family, acquaintances, etc. about how this program can provide their kids with free meals. You can convince them by telling them that it is absolutely fine to ask for help.

If you have personally experienced getting a free meal from SFSP, then you should share your story and let people know that these programs are completely legitimate. Some other ways you can help is by donating to facilitate the Summer Food Service Program in your community or becoming a volunteer at the food sites. Meanwhile, it is also important that every citizen should urge the government to keep these programs going.

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