During the summer months, many families rely on the Summer Food Service Program to provide at least one healthy, nutritious meal a day. With many families continuing to struggle financially, the Summer Food Service Program provided at schools, camps and churches is incredibly important.
Unfortunately, tightening state and local budgets have caused many summer learning programs to drop participation in the Summer Food Service Program. According to a report released earlier this summer by the Food Research and Action Center (FRAC)
, fewer children participated in the Summer Food Service Program in 2011. At the same time, the recently released Uncertain Times 2012
survey found that 61 percent of all summer learning programs
met or exceed operating capacity in 2011, with 54 percent of programs expecting an increase in enrollment in 2012. Of these programs, 6 in 10 serve as a summer food service program sponsor, a summer feeding site, or both. There is clearly a demand for these programs.
Despite concerns about dropping participation, many summer learning programs saw more students participating in summer food service programs this year. In Frederick, MD, local officials noted an increase in program participation this year. The Frederick Community Action Agency delivers the meals to sites across the county where 50 percent or more students are eligible for the free or reduced price school meal program. Sites that participate in the program are located in parks, schools and other public areas where children can congregate.
In some communities, summer meals are served with a healthy lifestyles lesson on the side. With between 85 and 90 percent of the students in the Santa Maria, CA, public schools eligible for free or reduced price school meals, the demand for the Summer Food Service Program is very high. This summer, the Foodbank of Santa Barbara County’s Picnic in the Park program served more than 35,000 meals, most of which are served in Santa Maria and the surrounding communities. While the children and their parents enjoy their meals, volunteers serving the meals teach lessons on healthy eating and active living.
Students that are participating in the Learning Ventures summer program in Spring Lake, MN
, were able to enjoy a healthy, nutritious meal each afternoon at lunch time. Every day, students enrolled in the program were able to chose from healthy offerings like turkey wraps, pasta salads and deli sandwiches, as well as fresh fruits and vegetables. This year, the healthy meals were served from June 11 to August 23.