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2012-06-14

USDA helps feed kids during summer meal gap

By Kevin Concannon

By Kevin Concannon
USDA Under Secretary for Food, Nutrition & Consumer Services

While the kids are exuberantly shouting, "School's out!" many parents may be quietly worrying just how they're going to feed their kids all summer long. I want to assure those moms, dads and caregivers that USDA has a program that can help.

All it takes is a toll free phone call to find a USDA Summer Food Service Program (SFSP) site where children in low-income areas can get a free meal during the summer months when schools are closed.

The National Hunger Hotline, available at 1-866-3-HUNGRY or 1-866-348-6479, makes available locations of Summer Food Service Program sites open in local areas. Providing a zip code enables the Hotline operator to check for the closest site. This information is also available to Spanish speakers, 1-877-8-HAMBRE.

Summer meals are free for children ages 18 years and under at open sites. In addition to a healthy meal, the program offers enjoyable learning activities held in a safe place where kids can play with friends and make new ones.

Summer meal sites are located at libraries, schools, family centers, youth drop-in centers, park and recreation centers, faith-based organizations and day camps and food banks, as well as at other locations where children come together during the summer months. Sites offer activities such as arts and crafts, drama, sports, computer training, music and reading that keep kids interested and coming back day after day.

I've personally visited many sites and know that the kids have a great time and enjoy good meals.

We need to spread the word so that more families, parents and children know about this program and can find a site in their community. At USDA, we're committed to ensuring that all students have access to "food that's in while school is out." We are here to help parents and communities make that a reality this summer.

For more information, visit www.summerfood.usda.gov.