January 31, 2011

State seeking organizations to serve meals to children during summer months

Federally funded program helps fight childhood hunger

The state health department is looking for organizations throughout Missouri to help feed thousands of children who would otherwise go without meals during the summer months, when school is not in session.

The Summer Food Service Program reimburses organizations for meals they serve to children who are at risk of not having enough to eat.

The program is one way Missouri is working to fight childhood hunger.

Twenty-three percent of children in Missouri experience food insecurity, meaning they have limited access to enough nutritious food to meet basic needs, according to Feeding America, the country’s largest domestic hunger-relief charity. A report released last summer, Child Food Insecurity in the United States: 2006-2008, ranks Missouri fifth in the nation for childhood hunger.

“Sometimes the only nutritious meal many children get is through the National School Lunch Program. When school is out for the summer, children miss out on those meals,” said Susan White, assistant chief of the health department’s Bureau of Community Food and Nutrition Assistance. “We urge schools and other eligible agencies that offer summer programs for children to apply for funding to provide meals.”

The summer food program provides nutritious meals to children under age 18 during the summer months when school breakfast and lunch programs are not operating.

Organizations eligible to participate in the program include schools, faith-based organizations, camps, private nonprofit agencies and government agencies. The sites are located in areas where at least half of the children are eligible to receive free or reduced-price meals.

The federally funded program is administered by the Missouri Department of Health and Senior Services. The department will accept applications March 1 through May 15 to participate in the program. Organizations interested in becoming sponsors are required to attend training.

More information about the Summer Food Service Program is available on the Web at www.dhss.mo.gov/living/wellness/nutrition/foodprograms/sfsp/, by telephone at 888-435-1464 (toll-free) or through RELAY MISSOURI for the Hearing and Speech Impaired at 1-800-735-2966. Potential sponsors may also write to the Missouri Department of Health and Senior Services, Summer Food Service Program, P.O. Box 570, Jefferson City, MO 65102.

In accordance with federal law and U.S. Department of Agriculture policy, the Department of Health and Senior Services does not discriminate on the basis of race, color, national origin, sex, age, or disability. To file a complaint of discrimination, write USDA, Director, Office of Civil Rights, 1400 Independence Avenue, SW, Washington, DC, 20250-9410, or call (800) 795-3272 (voice) or (202) 720-6382 (TTY). USDA is an equal opportunity provider and employer.