By Stan Friedman
WENATCHEE, WA (July 6, 2012) – Columbia Grove Covenant Church is making sure that underserved children in their area have a nutritious lunch Monday through Thursday every week during the summer.
The church is participating with the Simplified Summer Food Program (SSFP), which is funded through United States Department of Agriculture’s (USDA) child nutrition programs and administered through a state government agency.
“Hunger is one of the most severe roadblocks to the learning process,” the USDA states on its website. “Lack of nutrition during the summer months may set up a cycle for poor performance once school begins again. Hunger also may make children more prone to illness and other health issues.”
Columbia Grove is hosting free lunches at two locations for children ages one through 18. An activity is provided during lunch each day.
The SSFP provides reimbursement for meals served to children in lower income areas at no cost when school is out. Local sponsors apply to the state to operate the program.
According to the state of Washington, 736 sites served meals an average of 39,587 children each day last summer.
The program is one of several federal summer food programs and is available in all states. The number of students needing assistance has grown while the number benefiting from the programs has declined, according to the Food Research and Action Center (FRAC), a nonprofit anti-hunger organization
The number of students participating in the multiple food programs offered by the USDA has declined by more than 112,000 students since 2008, according to FRAC. In July 2011, only 14.6 children received summer meals for every 100 low-income children who ate school meals during the 2010-2011 school year.
States that have conducted “aggressive outreach campaigns” have seen increases in participation.
The USDA says the programs have been limited because there are not enough feeding sites, and the number of students needing assistance has grown due to the lingering effects of the recession.
Eligible sponsors for the Simplified Summer Food Program include public or private nonprofit schools, local, municipal, county, tribal or state government, private nonprofits, public or private nonprofit camps, and private or nonprofit universities or colleges.
Sponsors must be able to provide staff, managerial skills, and food service capabilities. A sponsor may provide its own meals, purchase meals through an agreement with an area school, or contract for meals with a food vendor.
For more information on how to participate visit the USDA website.