Help ensure no child goes hungry during the summer
Summer can often mean the opposite of sunshine and fun for more than 200,000 Iowa children who, instead, face a bona fide daily crisis called hunger. Once the academic school year ends, children who qualify to receive school-sponsored, free and reduced-price meals are left with a major, unfilled, nutritional void.
The U.S. Department of Agriculture’s Summer food Service Program (SFSP), administered by the Iowa Department of Education, aims to remedy this childhood food insecurity problem by providing nutritious meals and snacks to children in low-income areas during the summer months.
The program utilizes local sponsors and partner organizations to manage summer meal services, known as Summer Meal Meet-Ups. Sponsors and partner organizations have the opportunity to serve free meals to children 18 and under, in high-need areas. Typical sponsors include public or nonpublic schools, public or private non-profit colleges/universities, private non-profit organizations and camps, and local, county, municipal, state or federal agencies, with serving sites located in schools, churches, community centers, parks, libraries, housing complexes, or camps.
To qualify as a site, the meal service must be either located in a low-income neighborhood where at least 50 percent of the children are eligible for free and reduced-price meals or must serve primarily low-income children. Once a site location is established, all children 18 and under are welcome to participate.
In addition, program sponsors across the state are interested in partnering with other organizations in the following ways:
- Organizations that have a connection to families that can help spread the message about available site locations
- Organizations that have summer child-serving activities that are interested in adding a meal service without the administrative and management responsibilities of sponsorship
- Organizations that can provide activities at current meal sites
- Organizations that have access to volunteers who can help serve meals, supervise children, or provide activities at meal site
- Organizations that can assist with providing transportation for children to and from meal sites
In 2019, 184 sponsoring organizations served 1,277,567 meals and snacks at 593 meal sites, representing a small increase of 12,741 more meals and snacks than the previous summer. Current data shows there are 207,835 Iowa children approved for free and reduced-price meals.
While there are many summer food service program meal sites across the state, the program is still vastly under-utilized, with one of the biggest barriers to participation being the knowledge that meal sites exist.
Program sponsors, site locations, and partner organizations are crucial to making summer meals a priority and meeting the needs for families. Organizations interested in learning how to be involved are invited to register to participate in a free informational webinar on Feb. 19, from 1:30-2:30 p.m.
For more information, visit the Iowa Department of Education Summer Food Service Program webpage or contact Stephanie Dross at 515-281-4760 or firstname.lastname@example.org. This institution is an equal opportunity provider.