– Gloria-Deo Agbasi, NASCSP –
School’s Out, Should Lunch Be Too?
School’s out and summer vacation is in full swing! Are Summer Nutrition Programs, the Summer Food Service Program (SFSP) and the National School Lunch Program (NSLP), in full swing as well? Feeding low-income students should not end when school does. The need for good nutrition is never-ending. Children, who rely on NSLP during the school year, need a summer option that will supply nutritious and nourishing food. Are Summer Nutrition Programs picking up handily where NSLP left off?
Stark Statistic: Only One in Seven Students Were Fed
To answer these questions, the Food Research and Action Center (FRAC) reports that during the summer of 2011, only one in seven students were fed in the United States. Considering the subject matter, this is a stark statistic. With 100% of children fed as a goal, one in seven or 14% does not speak to success on any level. It speaks of a bar raised for which expectations were not met.
Effects of Poor Summer Nutrition
18 million children are at risk for going hungry during the summer months. The effects could be staggering:
- Hunger may make children more susceptible to illness due to lack of proper nutrition.
- Poor nutrition during summer vacation may set up a cycle for poor performance once school begins.
The nutrition gap must be bridged between the end and start of each school year. So let’s ask another question: What are some outreach suggestions that will assist Summer Nutrition Programs in meeting expectations?
Quick Start: Summer Outreach Suggestions to Use Right Now
Though summer vacation is already here, it is not too late to use these specific outreach efforts today:
- Glean Outreach Ideas and Get Involved. Visit SFSP’s hub, review the webinar presentations, and use the Outreach Toolkit.
- Use Available Materials to Connect to Families. Distribute flyers, brochures and door hangers in faith-based and community programs, schools, recreation centers, and housing complexes.
Suggestions for the Upcoming School Year
Start orchestrating these outreach efforts once school resumes:
- Learn from Top-Performers. Though overall statistics are much lower, Connecticut, the District of Columbia, New Mexico, and New York managed to reach and feed one in four low-income children in the summer 2011.
- Start Coordinating Outreach Efforts During the School Year. Schools should start outreach efforts early in the school year and engage parents in the process.
- Gather Best Practices from Experts in the Field. Share Our Strength strives to end childhood hunger and provides best practices and resources. FRAC’s Summer Food Standards of Excellence chart sets criteria to assess and rank feeding sites.
To assist children in need of food, find a community organization (faith-based programs, schools and recreation centers) offering activities. If you cannot find one, contact the National Hunger Hotline at 1-866-3-HUNGRY or 1-877-8-HAMBRE.
We could all learn from each other. What are your ideas to ensure that seven out of seven children are fed each summer?