By Natosha Bratcher, Communications Intern
When the school year draws to a close for the summer, so does lunch for many young children in Delaware. With the end of the school year quickly approaching and summer vacation following very closely behind, the Food Bank of Delaware is encouraging community partners to help serve free meals to children in need through the Summer Food Service Program (SFSP).
Beginning June 16, the Food Bank, with help from thousands of volunteers, will prepare and distribute free meals to qualified sites throughout the state. Sites include faith-based organizations, summer camps, sports camps and other centers where children congregate during the summer months.
Neighborhoods and apartment complexes are also qualified to serve free meals through the program. To host a neighborhood program, an adult must contact the food bank for an application to determine eligibility, attend a training session and submit weekly paperwork.
To qualify for free meals, sites must operate in low-income areas where at least half of the children (ages three to 18 years of age) are eligible for the free or reduced-price lunch program. Meals are served seven days a week and there are no fees associated with the program.
“When school is no longer is session, many Delaware school-aged children lose their major food source for the day,” said Food Bank of Delaware President and CEO Patricia Beebe. “With the help of the community and our team, we can ensure that at-risk children receive proper nutrition during the summer months.”
Unfortunately only a small percentage of eligible children access these free meals during the summer. The Food Bank of Delaware encourages all eligible organizations and neighborhoods to get involved this summer to help alleviate childhood hunger.
Last year, the Food Bank of Delaware distributed more than 150,000 meals through SFSP, and Beebe hopes that this number will increase in the 2014 summer season.
Nan Ciuffetelli, the executive director of the Cab Calloway Summer School of Arts, utilized the Summer Food Service Program last summer, “The food bank’s meal program is a great addition to what we accomplish. Our students take part in a free breakfast and lunch program during the school year, so it is essential that we continue this during the summer.”
On the menu, participating children can expect to find healthy, kid-friendly foods including cereal and milk, bagels, soy butter and jelly, turkey and cheese, apples, nectarines, celery sticks, yogurt and more.
SFSP is a federally-funded program operated nationally by the U.S. Department of Agriculture and locally by the Delaware Department of Education.
Sites in New Castle and Sussex counties interested in serving free meals may contact Dan Jackson, Hunger Relief Coordinator at (302) 444-8128 or firstname.lastname@example.org. Sites in Kent County may contact the Department of Education at (302) 735-4060.