Nearly half of state’s children qualify for free/reduced-price meals
TOPEKA — The Summer Food Service Program (SFSP) is seeking sponsors who are willing to provide nutritious meals to Kansas children during the summer months.
SFSP is a program of the U.S. Department of Agriculture (USDA) and is administered in the state of Kansas by the Kansas State Department of Education. The program provides reimbursement to schools, public agencies and private nonprofit organizations for food services.
Meals can be served free to children in areas with school or census eligibility based on free and reduced-price meal eligibility. Communities that already have sponsors still have needs, such as additional meal sites, volunteers or activities, said Cheryl Johnson, director of KSDE’s Child Nutrition and Wellness. Check with your community to find out what services are needed.
During the school year, nearly half of the children in Kansas qualify for reduced-price or free meals. The goal of the SFSP is to ensure children in needy areas continue to receive nutritious meals during summer vacation when the low-cost or free school meals provided through the Child Nutrition Programs of the USDA are no longer available. SFSP sponsors receive reimbursements for documenting and serving healthy meals to children between the ages of 1 to 18 at approved sites. These nutritional opportunities help keep children ready to learn when school resumes. This is a critical component of reaching the Kansas State Board of Education’s vision for education — Kansas leads the world in the success of each student.
More than 350,000 lunches are served to Kansas children each day during the school year, while only 29,000 children statewide receive free meals each day by SFSP sponsors during the summer months, according to KSDE. This means more sponsors across the state are needed. Kansas SFSP sponsors served a record 1.32 million meals during the summer of 2016 but still fell short of meeting the needs of Kansas children.
SFSP meals can complement supervised activities that are safe, fun and filled with learning opportunities, Johnson said. Children benefit nutritionally by receiving complete, wholesome meals while parents benefit from help in stretching their food dollars. Children who continue to receive healthy meals throughout the summer feel better, behave better and go back to school ready to learn, Johnson said.
Organizations interested in serving nutritious meals to children through a summer program can call Kelly Chanay with KSDE’s CNW program at (785) 296-2276. For more information, visit www.kn-eat.org and click on the Summer Food Service Program tab.
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