Local kids getting free meals during summer programs

BY PENNY DICKERSON
DAYTONA TIMES

The federal government is trying to make sure that no child goes hungry. Free, nutritious meals and snacks are being provided at 72 sites in Daytona Beach and surrounding communities due to a federally funded, state-administered program that began June 8 and will continue through Aug. 14.

Students from a previous USDA Summer Food Service Program are shown above. This summer’s program continues through Aug. 14.(COURTESY OF USDA)
Students from a previous USDA Summer Food Service Program are shown above. This summer’s program continues through Aug. 14.
(COURTESY OF USDA)

The programs are approved only for geographical areas where 50 percent or more of the children qualify for free and reduced-price meals during the school year and assures there will be no discrimination in meal service.

The Food and Nutrition Services Division (FNS) of the United States Department of Food and Agriculture (USDA) and collaborative partner Florida Impact funds the program to help children experience a healthy transition when school dismisses into summer months where they can learn, play, and grow without missing a meal.

Full and focused
According to the FNS, “Children who miss school breakfast and lunch are more likely to be sick, absent or tardy, disruptive in class, and inattentive. They also score lower on achievement tests. Good nutrition is essential for learning in school. The Summer Food Service Program (SFSP) provides an opportunity to continue a child’s physical and social development while providing nutritious meals during long vacation periods from school. It helps children return to school ready to learn.”

Those 18 and younger may receive free meals and snacks through the SFSP. Meals and snacks also are available to persons with disabilities, over age 18, who participate in school programs for people who are mentally or physically disabled.

In 2014, 71 Volusia County sites participated in the program and 2,571 children received either one or two meals each day and sites are responsible for transportation meals to individual program locations and establish their own distribution times.

“The only meals some children receive are provided by the school during the school year,” stated Patricia James, Human Services activity manager for Volusia County. “This program is significant because without it, last year over 2,000 children in Volusia County may not have had nutritious meals available to them during the summer months.”

History of program
The SFSP was created as part of a larger pilot program in 1968 and became its own separate program in 1975. By fiscal year 2012, Congress had appropriated $398 million for SFSP and that summer, more than 2.28 million children participated at almost 39,000 sites nation-wide.

Local government, camps, schools, and private nonprofit organizations can sponsor the SFSP if their organization already provides services to the community and has capable staff and good management practices to run a food service. Sponsoring sites attend the state agency’s training, locate eligible sites, hire, train and supervise staff, arrange for meals to be prepared and delivered, monitor sites and prepare claims for government reimbursement.

For summer 2013, the maximum reimbursement rate per meal most state sponsors receive is: Breakfast: $1.94; lunch or supper: $3.41; snack: 80 cents.

The FNS also encourages community volunteers to help each program thrive and states that the SFSP sites have organized, well-run activities that keep the interest of the children and teens coming back to the site day after day.

Some of these activities include arts and crafts, tutoring, mentoring, drama, sports, computer training, music, gardening, reading programs, cooking or any other creative ideas.

For more information about the program, visit www.SummerFoodFlorida.org.

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