By: Doris Vallejo-Aguilar, UT Intern, Spring 2017
When summer comes around, kids are excited to spend their days outdoors and in the pool. Still, some families have to worry about where their children’s meals will come from now that school is out. Why? Sometimes, the only meals kids can depend on are breakfast and lunch served in school. When families have this concern on their shoulders, summers are not so fun. There are programs, however, that provide food to children who are solely dependent on school meals.
Image source: https://commons.wikimedia.org/wiki/File:USDA_-_NSLP.png
Before we look into one of these programs, let us look at the numbers. In the United States, six out of seven students who eat free or reduced cost school lunch do NOT get a free meal during the summer. Only one out of seven students who receives free or reduced cost lunch participates in summer meal programs. How can we fix this?
First, let us talk about the Summer Food Service Program (SFSP). SFSP is funded by the U.S. Department of Agriculture and provides healthy lunches to kids of low-income families. As stated in their name, this program offers foods to families during summer breaks. This summer, summer 2017, the USDA plans to give more than 200 million free meals to kids. We can see from this that SFSP’s impact is large.
For more information about SFSP visit, https://www.fns.usda.gov/sfsp/summer-food-service-program
Not only does the SFSP provide meals to families in need, they also provide summer job opportunities. Summer job opportunities include community outreach and promotion of summer meals. SFSP also partners with local organizations to prepare and distribute meals. Local organizations include school districts, Boys & Girls Clubs, and community centers.
For summer job opportunities visit, https://www.fns.usda.gov/sites/default/files/cn/usda-dol_summernewsletter.pdf
SFSP partners with Austin ISD to provide free meals to local children. For more information and a summer meal request form (2017) visit, https://www.austinisd.org/nutritionfoodservices/summer-feed-program
To fix this problem, do not be afraid to reach out to programs that are intended to help you, especially during the summer when meals are uncertain. Visit the SFSP website and become familiar with their resources. Providing advocacy and outreach can bring awareness to this issue. Children should not have to worry about their next meal. Children should have during their summer break!