By Charlotte McGarry, Programs Director
Wow! What an amazing day! Yesterday I had the honor and privilege to speak before Senate staff at a briefing to educate lawmakers about the Summer Food Service Program. This educational opportunity was important as lawmakers begin to discuss the Summer Meals Act of 2014. As I departed the Wilmington train station en route to our nation’s capital, I was feeling excited, but extremely nervous. This was my first time speaking to national leaders about a program that helps so many children in our country during the summer months.
Feeding America and Share Our Strength invited the Food Bank of Delaware to speak given our long history and success with the program. Since 2002, we, along with our partners and volunteers, have provided millions of meals to children at risk of hunger in our state.
During my 10-minute talk I spoke about the need, challenges and successes of the program from the perspective of a sponsor. As a sponsor, we are responsible for locating and recruiting meal sites, hiring, training and supervising staff and volunteers, arranging meal preparation and delivery, monitoring sites, and preparing claims for meal cost reimbursement from USDA.
Yesterday’s presentation was intended to show members of Congress that it’s time to make adjustments to Summer Food Service Program processes developed in the 60s and 70s. As we all know, families’ needs and dynamics have significantly changed since then. It’s time to change the processes in which we serve children summer meals.
In Delaware only 20 percent of children who receive free or reduced-price meals at school participate in the Summer Food Service Program. Participation is not only low in Delaware, but on a national level. Lack of transportation and general awareness are two major barriers that hinder participation.
In order to reach more children, USDA has funded several demonstration grants to try alternative ways to provide meals. The Food Bank of Delaware, along with the Delaware Department of Education successfully managed one of these projects.
The Grab and Go alternative service method was so successful that we were able receive three years of generous funding from Our Family Foundation. During this second year of private funding and fourth year of the program our staff is faced with the sad truth that the need for this style of meal service outweighs the funds.
We urge Congress to support their constituents by instituting the changes necessary for children throughout our nation to have the opportunity to participate in Grab and Go and other innovative meal delivery programs.
To learn more about the Summer Meals Act of 2014, please click here.