This summer, more than 50,000 children will enjoy a free, healthy breakfast, lunch, snack or dinner at one of more than 600 sites across Massachusetts—all part of the Summer Food Service Program, a federally funded nutrition program that provides free meals to children ages 18 and under when school is not in session.
More than 363,000 children across Massachusetts qualify for free or low-cost school meals during the school year. When school ends for the summer, these children lose access to school meals, often leading to unhealthy meals, fatigue, weight gain and learning loss. This leaves many children unprepared to return to school in the fall.
The Summer Food Service Program, administered by the Massachusetts Department of Elementary and Secondary Education with support from the Child Nutrition Outreach Program at Project Bread, works to ensure these children have continued access to nutritious meals. The program provides free meals that meet federal nutrition guidelines to all children 18 years old and under, specifically at approved Summer Food Service Program sites in areas with significant concentrations of low-income children.
This year, Project Bread is providing $102,500 in grants to SFSP sponsors and sites in more than 30 different communities across Massachusetts. SFSP sites exist in a wide range of settings. They operate in schools, parks, public pools and neighborhood centers; and they serve children taking part in summer programs, staying home over the summer, staying in homeless shelters or hotels, etc.
Most SFSP sites open by July 1 and all run until mid-August. Parents, guardians, and children can get a complete list of programs across the state by calling Project Bread’s FoodSource Hotline at 1-800-645-8333 or by going to www.projectbread.org/summermeals.
“The Summer Food Service Program is a vital resource for hundreds of thousands of families in Massachusetts,” said Ashley Krebs, director of the Child Nutrition Outreach Program. “These are kids who just want to focus on being kids and not spend their time worrying about when they’ll be able to eat again.”
According to Project Bread’s 2013 Status Report on Hunger, 11.4 percent of Massachusetts households cannot confidently predict where their next meal is coming from. By providing free, nutritious meals throughout the summer, the SFSP ensures that every child has access to the food they need to go to school ready to learn. However, only 16 percent of children who were eligible for the SFSP participated last year.
Project Bread has created a Text 4 Food Program to make it easier to find SFSP sites. Individuals can simply text 617‐863‐MEAL(6325) to find a free, nearby meal for anyone under 18 years old offered at a participating SFSP site.
“Our challenge is to make sure every child who needs a meal knows where they can find one, wherever they are in Massachusetts,” said Krebs. “We are working with local resources in every community to help inform people where the summer food program sites are located and how children can get to the sites.”
The 2014 Summer Food Service Program is sponsored by the United States Department of Agriculture, an equal opportunity provider and employer, and is administered by the Massachusetts Department of Elementary and Secondary Education.
About Project Bread
Project Bread is the only statewide anti-hunger organization committed to providing people of all ages, cultures, and walks of life with sustainable, reliable access to nutritious food. From community-based meal programs, to early childhood and school nutrition initiatives, to improved access to farm-to-table resources, Project Bread approaches hunger as a complex problem with multiple solutions. With funds raised through The Walk for Hunger and other sources, Project Bread pioneers innovative initiatives and supports effective programs to eradicate hunger in our state. For more information, visit www.projectbread.org, www.facebook.com/projectbread, or www.twitter.com/walkforhunger.
About the Massachusetts Department of Elementary and Secondary Education
The Massachusetts Department of Elementary and Secondary Education, sometimes referred to as the Massachusetts Department of Education, is the state education agency for the Commonwealth of Massachusetts. It is responsible for public education at the elementary and secondary levels, and is governed by the Massachusetts Board of Education. For more information, visit www.doe.mass.edu.