Summer Food Service Program: Feeding Kids When School’s Out

By: Pedro Rivera, Secretary of Education

August 23, 2016

Food insecurity and hunger are a serious threat to the health and wellbeing of Pennsylvania’s communities; in fact, one in seven Pennsylvanians struggles with hunger. For some students, their schools become a safe haven – a place where they can count on receiving healthy, nutritious sustenance.

Summer-food-service

The Summer Food Service Program is a critically important resource for these students, ensuring access to healthy food even when the last bell has rung and school lets out for the summer. The Pennsylvania Department of Education’s Division of Food and Nutrition knows how important it is for children to have access to the food they need, and under the guidance of the U.S. Department of Education, as well as with the participation of generous sites and sponsors, SFSP is able to provide that security.

Last summer, the program provided nearly 7 million meals to qualifying students. And this summer, we are well on our way to doing the same.

How does a district qualify?

One way is to qualify as a low-income area, which is determined by meeting a certain threshold of the number of students who are free and reduced lunch-eligible (50 percent). Additionally, sites can qualify using census data.

How does the program work?

Any nonprofit organization can sponsor the SFSP, but meals must be provided in a congregate setting. Sites can offer activities for participants and can serve the meals in conjunction with other summer programs, and must simply provide services to children in qualifying areas.

It has been well-documented that hunger negatively impacts growth, development, behavior, and learning. Through its efforts to combat summer slide and provide access to nutritional food when school is both in and out of session, the Department of Education is working to ensure that kids can have access to all the tools they need to succeed each and every year.

Thanks to the support of generous community partners, the Summer Food Service Program was able to provide needed support to Pennsylvania’s children this summer, giving them a fresh and healthy start to return to the classroom this fall.

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