Sometimes in life, there really is such a thing as a free lunch.
Every summer, the U.S. Department of Agriculture’s Summer Food Service Program (SFSP) helps provide meals to those 18 and younger. Missouri’s Department of Health and Senior Services Bureau of Community Food and Nutrition Assistance (DHSS-CFNA) administers the program locally, providing food at several locations in an effort to allow school-aged kids to continue receiving regular meals when school is out of session during the summer months.
According to Traci Wash, an area site supervisor, kids are also offered activities between meals. At Wash’s location, they serve breakfast and lunch, but she said that certain locations also serve dinner.
“After a meal, some help clean up, and I’ll give them an extra milk or cheese,” says Wash.
At Wash’s location, she sees the same kids almost everyday: preparing their breakfast, and making sure that each kid in attendance receives a full meal. If a kid doesn’t want one of the meal items, such as a banana, it is set aside for another day.
A site supervisor at a different location, Jennie Winston, said that the kids are allowed to stay if they want to hang out and play board games.
“They’ll stay or leave and come back if they get bored at home,” says Winston.
Megan Hopkins, the Chief of Public Information for DHSS, says that the program is meant to help serve meals when the free lunches that sustain students during the school year are not available.
“SFSP provides an opportunity to continue a child’s physical and social development while providing nutritious meals during long vacation periods from school,” said Hopkins. “It helps children return to school ready to learn.”
Hopkins added that in Missouri, SFSP is supported through $14 million in funds from the U.S. Department of Agriculture.
This program is sponsored by Total Man Community Development Corporation, which is a part of St. Luke’s Memorial Church. They are working with the US Department of Agriculture to provide food and a location for meals. Hopkins noted that during the summer of 2017, an estimated 630,000 meals and snacks were served through the SFSP program in the Kansas City metropolitan area.
To find a site in your community, call the National Hunger Hotline at 1-866-348-6479, or 1-866-842-6273 for Spanish speakers.
More information is also available at www.fns.usda.gov/sfsp.