Oregon – The Oregon Department of Education (ODE) is taking significant steps to address child hunger during the summer months by expanding its Summer Food Service Program (SFSP). With an ambitious plan to serve more nutritious meals to children and teens, ODE has announced the availability of grant funds up to $20,000 for organizations willing to establish summer meal sites.
The SFSP aims to fill the nutritional gap for children who rely on free or reduced-price meals during the year. Last summer, SFSP sponsors across Oregon successfully served 1.2 million meals, a commendable effort but still short of meeting the full demand. Summer Meals Outreach Coordinator Cathy Broch highlights the disparity between the number of meals served during the summer and the school year, emphasizing the need to bridge this gap. “We know that this number of meals that are served in the summer pales in comparison to the amount of kids who participate in [free/reduced] school meals during the school year. So- we want to increase the number that are served during the summer to reduce that gap,” Broch explained.
To facilitate this expansion, ODE is actively seeking partnerships with schools, non-profits, faith-based organizations, and tribes to become Summer Food Service sponsors. The initiative not only provides start-up grant funds as an incentive but also ensures that qualified organizations are reimbursed for serving healthy meals and snacks to children at approved sites. The application process includes submitting an eligibility assessment by March 1, with the requirement that meal sites are located in areas where at least 50% of students are eligible for free or reduced-price meals.
The SFSP sponsors a wide variety of sites where children can access meals in a safe and supervised environment. These sites can range from schools and parks to community centers, health clinics, libraries, and faith-based locations. Notably, starting in 2023, sponsors in rural areas have the option to provide “Grab and Go” meals or even deliver meals, enhancing the program’s accessibility.
Current Participation and Future Plans
Currently, 89 school districts in Oregon participate in the SFSP, with an additional 14 districts offering the “Seamless Summer Option,” an extension of the school lunch program. This concerted effort underscores Oregon’s commitment to ensuring no child goes hungry during the summer break.
Organizations interested in contributing to this vital cause and seeking more information on becoming a sponsor or applying for grants can reach out to ODE at [email protected]. Through collaborative efforts, the expansion of the Summer Food Service Program holds the promise of reaching more children in need and providing them with the essential nutrition they require to thrive outside the school year.