With school wrapping up and summer break just around the corner, June 1-5 marks USDA Food and Nutrition Service’s Summer Meals Kick-Off Week, and here at Partners for a Hunger-Free Oregon, we’re gearing up for an awesome summer!
During the school year, more than one hundred thousand Oregon children eat free or reduced price school meals each day. This consistent, balanced source of nutrition helps kids stay healthy and succeed in school. However, when school ends for the year, so does this important resource. The Summer Food Service Program (SFSP) is meant to help fill that nutritional gap.
Summer meal sites are community programs located in eligible neighborhoods where all children up to age 18 are welcome. Many sites offer fun, supervised enrichment activities for kids, in addition to serving nutritious meals throughout the day.
While summer meals can be a huge benefit to children and communities, families often experience barriers to accessing the program. Some common reasons cited are that parents are unaware of local programs, or don’t realize that their kids are welcome to drop in. Other barriers to participation include transportation and offering enough sites where kids normally congregate in the summer.
Partners for a Hunger-Free Oregon, Oregon Department of Education Child Nutrition Programs and other partners have been working for many years to expand Summer Meals and help ensure this valuable program doesn’t go underutilized. Part of that work includes promoting awareness and tracking local participation each year. Each year, Partners for a Hunger-Free Oregon releases an Oregon Summer Meal Participation Report to coincide with USDA FNS’s Summer Meals Kick-Off week and the release of Food Research and Action Center’s national participation report.
Our 2014 Oregon Summer Meal Participation Report has lots of good news! Last year, Oregon summer meals sites and sponsors served seven percent more meals than in 2013. Across the state, sites served a grand total of 2,095,672 breakfasts, snacks, lunches and suppers during the months of June, July and August. This represents an average of more than 45,000 kids accessing the program each day. This increase in meals, along with an additional 54 new meal sites, helped programs reach a record high 23 percent of children who access free and reduced price school meals.
While this success represents major progress in Oregon, there is still much work to be done spreading the word about Summer Meals. To see learn more about sites in your county, check out our Participation Report and visit SummerFoodOregon.org. Find us on Facebook and Twitter and share your summer meals photos and stories by tagging us and using #SummerMealsOregon.