Sponsors Wanted for N.C. Summer Food Service Program

Raleigh, N.C.

Childhood hunger is a problem that affects almost every community in North Carolina. In 2013, over 806,000 low-income children received meals through the National School Lunch Program. Only 92,369 of those children received Summer Food Service Program (SFSP) meals during the summer break. This means that 88 percent of low income, school-age children in North Carolina may have experienced hunger during the summer months.

"Summer should not be a time that kids associate with hunger, but is a great opportunity for them to learn about nutrition, healthy eating and physical activity," said Acting State Health Director Robin Gary Cummings. "I believe there are many more opportunities to increase the number of SFSP sponsors serving meals at sites throughout North Carolina."

The SFSP was designed by the United States Department of Agriculture (USDA) to ensure that low-income children continue to receive nutritious meals when school is not in session. The need for sponsors in North Carolina is vital, for only 12 out of 100 children who receive free or reduced price meals during the school year continue to receive meals during the summer months. This past summer, there were 135 sponsors supporting 1,290 summer sites in North Carolina.

Additionally, the USDA has identified 50 counties in North Carolina as Strike Force Counties. The Strike Force campaign is an effort to leverage partnerships in poverty-stricken rural areas and to ensure that every community has equal access to USDA programs. Cummings further stated that as a Summer Food Service sponsor, organizations have been able to carry out their mission to alleviate hunger in their communities by providing healthy breakfast, lunch, and/or supper meals to children who normally receive free or reduced price lunch in schools.

"As sponsors of the Summer Food Service Program, the Food Bank of Central & Eastern North Carolina believes that it is vitally important for these and all children to consistently receive reliable, nutritious meals, especially throughout the summer, when access to school meals is taken away, for their general well-being, cognitive, physical and social development," said Gideon Adams, Senior Manager of Programs and Outreach. "No child should ever go hungry as a matter of principle, but certainly not if we aspire for them to become well rounded, contributing members of society."

For more information, contact the NC Division of Public Health's Special Nutrition Programs office at (919) 707-5799.