USDA Summer Food Service Program
The United States Department of Agriculture (USDA) Summer Food Service Program (SFSP) was established to ensure that low-income children continue to receive nutritious meals when school is not in session. Free meals, that meet Federal nutrition guidelines, are provided to all children 18 years old and under at approved SFSP sites in areas with significant concentrations of low-income children.
Unfortunately, this program is underutilized.
On July 7, 2014, I organized a cross-district tour to raise awareness about this important program.
Press Coverage of Tour
40 WWGB ABC/FOX
Not enough children taking advantage of program
Written by Corlyn Voorhees · 07/07/2014 · 3:43 pm
Above: US Congressman Jim McGovern hands a free lunch to a young girl outside the Worcester Public Library. Steven King/Worcester Magazine
The conclusion of the school year presents not only a joyous time for students who are eager for a break from their schoolwork, but a problem for parents who depend on school meal programs to feed their children. Efforts to promote the United States Department of Agriculture’s “Summer Food Service Program” aim to solve that problem.
“A child’s need for nutritious food doesn’t just end when the school year does,” US Congressman Jim McGovern says to a crowd of more than three dozen outside of the Worcester Public Library, as part of a day-long tour across the 2nd Congressional District Monday, July 7 to raise awareness about the program. In a press release from McGovern’s office, he states, “I want to ensure that every eligible family that needs access to food this summer knows that this program is available.”
The Summer Food Service Program was originally founded in 1968 as a component to the Special Food Service Program, and in 1975 a separate Summer Food Service Program was authorized. According to McGovern’s press release, the program, which is funded by the U.S. Department of Agriculture and administered by the Massachusetts Department of Elementary and Secondary Education, aims to provide nutritious meals to low-income children and teens during the summer, free of charge. To accomplish this, the program works with state agencies, local communities and sponsor groups such as schools, camps, faith-based groups and other non-profit organizations.
Despite the wide availability of the program in an effort to combat hunger, the outreach is still low. In a 2011 American Community Survey from the U.S. Census Bureau, it was revealed that while 293,345 kids in Massachusetts are eligible for the Summer Food Service Program, only 53,634 kids, or 18 percent, actually participate.
In 2013, the program served about 151 million meals and snacks nationally at a cost of $428 million, but according to the 2013 Massachusetts Summer Food Service Program Scorecard, only 21 percent of the kids eligible for free or reduced price meals during the school year participated. These statistics highlight either a necessity for more awareness of the program or making steps to increase availability to the citizens who need it, advocates say.
Following up on Democratic 16th Worcester District state Rep. Dan Donahue, who says, "School's out, but hunger isn't," School Superintendent Melinda Boone stressed the while school has indeed closed for the summer, the need for efficient nutrition persists.
Adds McGovern, “Our children should not lose access to healthy food just because the school year is over."
Towns and cities all over the state will be involved in the program at more than 600 locations. This year, Worcester Public Schools will host eight open summer meal sites, and Friendly House will sponsor 34 other meal sites - 23 open sites with meals free to anyone under age 18, and 11 closed sites for registered children only. Friendly House was also awarded a $3,000 grant from Project Bread for its efforts to increase participation in the program.
“In Worcester, we’ve been very clear that when we stand together, we accomplish so much more,” says Boone. “Achievement won’t occur unless children are well-fed and nourished.”
A complete list of locations across the state – along with dates of the program, days available and hours – is available via Project Bread’s FoodSource Hotline at 1-800-645-8333 or online at meals4kids.org/sfsp.
Telegram & Gazette
By Sara Schweiger TELEGRAM & GAZETTE STAFF
WORCESTER — If you serve it, they won't necessarily come.
Fewer than one in five eligible Massachusetts children who receive meal assistance during the school year take advantage of a federally funded program that provides free meals during the summer.
On Monday, U.S. Rep. James P. McGovern, D-Worcester, made stops in Greenfield, Athol, Winchendon, Leominster and Worcester to promote the Summer Food Service Program. He was joined by Miranda E. Miranda, branch chief for the U.S. Department of Agriculture's Special Nutrition Program, and other state and local officials.
"A child's need for nutritious food doesn't just end because the school year does. For many folks the challenge of replacing their child's free or reduced school lunch during the summer months can be truly daunting," Mr. McGovern said.
Thirty-eight percent of children in Massachusetts are eligible for free or reduced-price meals during the school year, but far fewer take advantage of the meals during the summer.
Only about 16 percent of Massachusetts children who were eligible for free meals took part in the Summer Food Service Program in 2013.
The program provides free meals to children 18 and younger when school is not in session. In Massachusetts, the program is administered by the state Department of Elementary and Secondary Education.
In Worcester, the program is run by Friendly House, the Worcester County Food Bank and the Worcester public schools.
In the city this summer, there are 35 meal sites, including schools, parks, neighborhood centers and, new this year, each of the city's library branches.
Donna Lombardi, food service director for the Worcester public schools, described lack of participation as a logistical issue.
"It's not as easy during the summer. ... That's why we went mobile," she said, referring to the blue truck operated by the Worcester public schools and supported by the Worcester County Food Bank with help from Stop & Shop's Our Family Foundation. The truck, which debuted last summer, visits several of the city's free meal sites that don't have the means to prepare meals.
"With both our wonderful collaborations among local, state and federal partners, we've been able to provide the summer meal program to where children are most active during the summer," Ms. Lombardi said.
This is Maribel Damik's second year working the food truck, the inside of which was comfortably chilly on a warm summer afternoon.
"And what would you like for lunch? And what kind of milk?" she asked youngsters lined up curbside on Salem Street.
Seven-year-old Jamaya knew exactly which sandwich she wanted.
"Jelly!" she exclaimed after being given the choice of that or chicken salad.
Jamaya was visiting the library with her mother and siblings, who are participating in the summer reading program.
"Here in Worcester, not only are kids 18 or under getting free nutritious meals, for the first time they're getting those meals at all of our public libraries across the city," Mr. McGovern said. "How wonderful that you can come to the library to get a book and also get something to eat."
Registration is not required for the summer food program. For a list of food sites across the state, visitwww.meals4kids.org.
Contact Sara Schweiger at Sara.Schweiger@telegram.com. Follow her on Twitter @SschweigerTG.
Sentinel & Enterprise
y Jack Minch, firstname.lastname@example.org
POSTED: 07/08/2014 06:58:43 AM EDT0 COMMENTS
Several local and state officials served lunch at the Spanish American Center in Leominster as part of an awareness effort for the Summer Food Services Program offering free breakfasts and lunches to children. From left are U.S. Rep. Jim McGovern; Rich LeTarte, chairman of the board of directors of the Spanish American Center; Leominster Mayor Dean Mazzarella; state Rep. Dennis Rosa; and Miranda E. Miranda, branch chief for the Community Nutrition Programs of Special Nutrition Program. SENTINEL & ENTERPRISE / Ashley Green
Sentinel and Enterprise staff photos can be ordered by visiting our SmugMug site.
LEOMINSTER -- State and federal officials went on a barnstorming trip through the state Monday raising awareness of the Summer Food Services Program, offering free breakfasts and lunches to children who are eligible for free and reduced meals during the school year.
They stopped at the Spanish American Center on Spruce Street where Executive Director Neddy Latimer and her volunteers were serving meals for more than 800 children spread over 16 sites from Fitchburg to Gardner.
"We're here for one reason and that is no child should go hungry in the summer," said U.S. Rep. Jim McGovern, D-Worcester.
It's noteworthy the center has added one of the city's motels where the state is housing homeless children as a serving site this summer, said Katie Millett, executive director of the Department of Elementary and Secondary Education's Office of Nutrition, Health and Safety Programs.
The program is vital because many children go hungry during the summer, said Executive Office of Health and Human Services Secretary John Polanowicz. Greater participation and support for the program will lead to more federal funding, he said.
"We want them to be outside and active but we don't want them to be hungry," Polanowicz said.
Only 20 percent of eligible children statewide take part in the summer program, Millett said.
That means even though 293,345 children are eligible for the Summer Food Service Program statewide, only about 53,634 take part, McGovern said.
Nationally, there are about 21 million children eligible for free and reduced lunches during the school year but only about 3.5 million take part in the summer program, said Miranda E. Miranda, the community nutrition programs branch chief for the U.S. Department of Agriculture.
Poor nutrition during summer carries over to the school year when academic performances suffers, she said.
DESE is hoping to find more sponsors and more sites to serve the meals, Millett said.
The Spanish American Center gives a good return for the investment, said state Rep. Dennis Rosa, D-Leominster.
"When you make an investment in the Spanish American Center you get a 110 percent return," he said.
McGovern is a strong advocate for the federal Community Development Block Grant program, which helps fund the program at the Spanish American Center, said Mayor Dean Mazzarella.
Feeding the hungry needs strong political support, McGovern said.
"There are 50 million people in this country who don't have enough to eat; 17 million of them are children," he said. "I'm ashamed of that."
Tour of sites includes stops in Greenfield, Athol, Winchendon and Worcester.
For information on sites serving free breakfasts and lunches for children under 18 years old, visit www.meals4kids.org.
By KATHLEEN McKIERNAN
Monday, July 7, 2014
(Published in print: Tuesday, July 8, 2014)
GREENFIELD —U.S. Rep. Jim McGovern spent Monday crisscrossing the 2nd Congressional District he represents to raise awareness about the federal Department of Agriculture’s Summer Food Service Program aimed at preventing childhood hunger.
Thirty-eight percent of children in Massachusetts are eligible for free and reduced price meals during the school year. During the summer months, however, those children have less access to healthy foods.
“I want to ensure that every eligible family that needs access to food this summer knows that this program is available,” said McGovern. “Our children should not lose access to healthy food just because the school year is over.”
According to the state Department of Elementary and Secondary Education, which administers the program, in Massachusetts, 11.9 percent of children live in food insecure households — a number that increases during the summer without school meals.
Only about 18 percent of eligible children participate in the program. While 293,345 kids are eligible in Massachusetts, only 53,634 participate. Full participation would result in over 18 million additional meals going to children in need.
Last year, the federal summer feeding program provided 161 million meals nationally, feeding approximately 3.5 million children on a typical summer day.
Frequently, these families find it difficult to absorb the additional meal costs when school is not in session, according to the state. Without access to healthy foods, children become at risk for hunger and malnutrition when they return to school in September.
The program is a federally funded, state-administered program aimed at providing free nutritious meals to low-income children and teens during the summer.
There are eight free meal sites in Greenfield that run Mondays through Fridays.
The Green River Swimming and Recreation Area on Nashs Mill Road, Leyden Woods at 24 Leyden Wood Lane, the Greenfield YMCA, Greenfield Gardens (at 2 Pray Drive) offer lunch from 11:30 a.m. to 12:30 p.m. until Aug. 15. Greenfield Gardens, Greenfield YMCA and Leyden Woods also offer breakfast from 8 to 9 a.m.
Camp Kee-wanee serves lunch from 11:30 a.m. to 12:30 p.m. until Aug. 8.
The Federal Street School at 125 Federal St. and the Newton School at 70 Shelburne Road serve breakfast and lunch until July 31.
The intent of the tour was to increase public awareness of the program to have more families take advantage of it.
McGovern visited Greenfield, Athol, Leominster and Worcester.
He was joined by several federal, state and local officials, including the federal Health and Human Services Secretary John Polanowicz, state Rep. Paul Mark and Greenfield Mayor William Martin.