How to start a Summer Food Service Program site to feed children in your community

Note:  Thousands of children in Nebraska are food insecure and struggle to get enough to eat in the summer months when they are out of school.  Summer Food Service Program sites across the state do amazing work helping feed kids each year to make sure they don’t go hungry.  This is the conclusion of our blog series during “National Summer Food Service Program Week,” and this entry provides instruction on how to start your own site to feed children in the summer.

summer_food_service_logoFor many Nebraska children in low-income families it can be difficult to find a nutritious meal when school is not in session.  In fact, according to “Hunger Doesn’t Take a Vacation,” a new report from the national Food Research and Action Center, almost 90 percent of Nebraska children who are normally fed through the Free & Reduced Lunch program do not participate in a federally funded summer meal program.

Fortunately, there are resources communities can use to get the tools necessary to help fight child hunger in the summer months.

Across the state, organizations such as community centers, recreation centers, libraries, schools, and religious institutions feed children through the Summer Food Service Program (SFSP).  These groups link with SFSP sponsors to become SFSP sites that provide a safe place for children in low-income neighborhoods to get healthy, reliable meals.

Organizations interested in starting a site can start by asking themselves a few fundamental questions:

  • What percentage of children in the school district where the site will be located qualify for Free/Reduced Lunch?  The Nebraska Department of Education keeps track the data for each school district. These figures also can be found by contacting the local school administrator or Food and Nutrition Services (FNS) of the Nebraska Department of Education.

  • Is there an SFSP sponsor in the area that can collaborate on launching the site? FNS provides a map with SFSP sponsors and their contact information on their website.

By reaching out to sponsors, sites can identify what resources they will need to start a site.  Many sites have indicated the most sustainable programs are those that have a strong connection to the local community that provides a reliable corps of volunteers, charitable contributions, and a small amount of back-up funds.

Additional funding can be provided by applying for grants managed by the Nebraska Department of Education for expanding and launching new sites.  This funding was made available in Nebraska in 2012 after LB 1090, introduced by Senator Norm Wallman, was passed by the State Legislature, creating grants of up to $15,000 for eligible sites and certain expenses.

No two SFSP sites are alike, except in their dedication to fighting child hunger.  By reviewing the Nebraska Appleseed spotlights on just a few programs throughout the state, it is obvious that no two SFSP sites are the same.  However, each fights against the very real issue of child hunger and undernutrition that limits the psychological and physical growth of our future.

Nebraska Appleseed greatly encourages organizations to reach out to their local sponsors and the Nebraska Department of Education (800-731-2233) to ensure that Nebraska can reach its full potential, one summer meal at a time.

See more in Appleseed’s Summer Food Service Program series.

Summer Food 101: What you can do to fight childhood hunger in Nebraska

In Falls City, feeding children in the summer is a labor of love

Lincoln Summer Food organizers have high goals for feeding kids

Nebraska Participation in Summer Meals for Children Continues to Fall Short

Partnership puts summer food site on wheels in Omaha

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