As a child, I always looked forward to the
carefree joy of summertime. I remember the
long days of playing outside at a nearby park
until I needed to
come home for
many of our
do not experience the simple joys of summer.
In fact, far too many are left worrying where
their next breakfast or lunch will come from
when schools are dismissed for summer break.
During the school year, about 31 million
American children receive school meals
through the National School Lunch Program
and School Breakfast Program every day.
About 21 million of those children receive
meals at a discounted rate or for free, based on
their family’s income. When summer comes,
though, only about 3.5 million of these children
participate in USDA’s summer meals programs.
That means millions of eligible low-income
children are at risk of going hungry during the
summer months. And we know that to thrive
and reach their highest potential, children
need good nutrition all year long.
USDA’s Summer Food Service Program
(SFSP) is working to fill this hunger gap for
children who qualify for free and reduced price
meals during the school year.
The program serves free healthy meals to
eligible children ages 18 and under, and is
made possible through the efforts of national,
state, and local partners, including a cadre of
While USDA has worked to increase access
to summer meals for low-income children for
many years, SFSP began receiving priority
attention in 2013.
Last summer, USDA employed a new tactic
of working with partners to deliver intensive,
targeted technical assistance on SFSP in five
states. The result was a historic increase in
the number of meals served, nationwide —7
million more than the previous year! We hope
to continue building on last year’s successes
with our state and local partners in 2014, and
move closer to closing the summer hunger gap.
The key to success this year will be expanding
the number of sites open for summer
meals. We must spread the word to schools,
parks and recreation departments, libraries,
and faith and other community organizations
across the nation; their participation is critical
for the continued success of SFSP. The deadlines
to become Summer Food Service Program
sponsors vary by State, and begin as
early as April 15.
Program sponsors oversee and provide
meals to summer sites. In return, USDA,
through the States, reimburses program sponsors
for the meals served to children.
I’m sure it comes as no surprise when I say
that galvanizing hundreds of faith-based
groups, civic groups, recreation centers, food
banks, schools, other non-profit organizations,
and volunteers takes time, effort and commitment
on all sides.
For any community that treasures its youth
(and I haven’t met one that doesn’t), we must
organize now to fight hunger this summer.
If you or your organization is interested in
helping us reduce the risk of hunger among
our nation’s youth, visit our website, www.summerfood.
The summer meals outreach toolkit includes
sample outreach plans, templates, customizable
flyers, door hangers, letters to parents,
examples of site activities, best practices, and
more. State representatives are also available
to answer questions and facilitate sponsor
enrollment and site registration. This year,
let’s work together to make sure every child in
our great nation has a hunger-free summer.
Kevin Concannon, U.S. Department of
Agriculture undersecretary for food,
nutrition and consumer services
As a child, I always looked forward to the
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