Making sure South Carolina’s children have enough to eat all year round is one of the biggest responsibilities we have as a community.
Many people may be surprised to learn 57 percent of South Carolina’s children are eligible for the Free and Reduced-Price School Lunch Program. However, each summer, these same families struggle to provide their children with nutritious meals when schools close and kids no longer receive school meals.
Fortunately, nonprofits, school districts, and enrichment programs can help to fill the gap through the Summer Food Service Program (SFSP). Beginning today, June 9, 2013 and continuing through the summer, this program provides federally funded nutritious breakfasts, lunches, suppers and snacks to children when school meals are not available. This program is vital to making sure children from South Carolina’s low-income families don’t go hungry during the summer months.
Although the SFSP program is dedicated to helping kids during the summer, when they are most vulnerable to experiencing hunger, a recent study by the Food and Research Action Center found that the nation’s Summer Nutrition Programs continue to fall far short of their goal to curb summer hunger. In South Carolina, only 21% of the students eligible for Free-Reduced Lunch Program during the school year participate in the summer food program. While our school lunch programs serve more than 335,000 children in South Carolina during the school year, we are only serving 70,000 children through SFSP. There is still a long way to go in reaching all the children who are eligible for this program, and we need everyone’s help to pitch in. We need to be sure that every child who should be receiving a summer meal gets one because no child should ever be going hungry in our state.
ACCESSING THE PROGRAM:
It’s important that parents know where summer sites in their neighborhoods are located so that they can get these healthy, free meals to their children. To find out the closest SFSP site near you, parents and guardians can contact their local school district, call the SC Department of Social Services at (803) 898-0971 or the National Hunger Hotline at 1-866-3-Hungry or 1-877-8-HAMBRE.
HOW YOU CAN HELP:
You can help in the fight against hunger for South Carolina’s kids by having your organization sponsor or staff an SFSP site in your community. As a sponsor, you will provide nutritious meals which are fully funded by the USDA to kids in your area in the summer in a variety of settings, including schools, recreation centers, playgrounds, parks, churches, community centers, day camps, residential summer camps, housing projects, and migrant centers, or on Indian reservations. As a site, you will serve the meals in a safe location along with fun exercise and wellness activities.
To find out more about becoming a SFSP site to help kids in your community, contact the SC Department of Social Services by calling (803) 898-0971, or visit the USDA’s SFSP website.