This month, children across Indiana begin summer vacation. While summer vacation is considered to be freedom for many children, for the one in four Hoosier children facing hunger it means losing the one place that they can count on for a meal.
For most of the country, the face of hunger is surprising. It does not discriminate against age, race, gender, or ethnicity. It affects working families who are forced to make difficult choices between food and basic necessities such as heat, medicine or rent. This school year, more than one million Hoosier children relied on free or reduced-priced school meals throughout the academic year. Consequently, their families may be left struggling to find a way to keep these children fed when these programs end and summer vacation begins.
The USDA’s Summer Food Service Program (SFSP), which provides low-income children with free, nutritious meals during the summer months when school is not in session, is intended to fill this gap. SFSP is the single largest federal resource available for local community organizations that want to combine a feeding program with a summer activity program. Several member food banks and hundreds of their affiliated agencies are some of the many organizations that sponsor or host a summer feeding program site.
However, the Summer Food Service Program continues to be underutilized. Sponsors are needed to help coordinate the program, and agencies are needed to host feeding sites and encourage families to bring their children. But one of the biggest reasons that the SFSP is underutilized is that families do not know that it is available for their children. Help is needed in raising awareness of this important program.You can check out the Indiana Department of Education’s interactive SFSP site map at http://www.doe.in.gov/student-services/nutrition, or call 211 to learn where sites are in your community. Help us get the word out about this program and increase participation in Indiana. Together, we can ensure that all children have access to healthy meals this summer.