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Schools serve the community in various ways. Public schools provide children from families who qualify for free or reduce lunch. They also assist feeding hungry children across the nation. But what happens when the summer hits? Whether the kids are at home or in camp, hunger is a serious concern for our children, and who can afford a few months of malnutrition? In response to these concerns, the USDA has launched the Summer Food Service Program with the slogan: “Food that’s in when school is out”.
The program addresses a delicate urgency within the United States. As Ashe County Schools Child Nutrition Coordinator, Angie Thompson, tells the Jefferson Post, “More than 12 million low-income children across the country may go hungry this summer and all because they do not know about a free food program available to all kids.” The USDA reports that only 20% of the children eligible for free and reduced school meals during the school year will get a consistent source of food that they need.
To find meals and sites within your community, you can call the USDA’s toll-free service number, the National Hunger Hotline at 1-866-3-HUNGRY (1-877-8-HAMBRE en español). The toll-free numbers provide information on where you can find summer sites as well as food assistance. And even if you don’t qualify for the program, you can still participate through sponsorship and volunteering.
As the USDA, Under Secretary for Food, Nutrition and Consumer Services, Kevin Concannon, explains, “I encourage parents and sponsoring organizations to work with their schools to send Summer Food Service Program flyers and other outreach materials home with students. Summer Food Service Program is vitally important to the millions of kids who eat school lunch and breakfast during the school year but have no nutritious alternatives in the summer.”
As a sponsor you can help to purchase and provide meals and even bring your own, under specific provisions. To become a sponsor, register at www.whyhunger.org. The program also accepts volunteers to transport the food and help clean up sites. Registration for those opportunities can be found at www.serve.gov/endhunger.