Vilsack and Partners Urge Action to Feed More Hungry Children This Summer
USDA Kicks-off First-Ever National Summer Food Service Program Awareness Week
WASHINGTON, June 6, 2011 – Agriculture Secretary Tom Vilsack today kicked-off the first-ever National Summer Food Service Program Week: "Food That's In When School Is Out," a week-long awareness campaign to promote USDA's Summer Food Service Program [http://www.fns.usda.gov/cnd/summer] (SFSP) and other initiatives across the country to feed low-income children during summer when school is out. The SFSP, a federally funded program designed to alleviate hunger during the summer, operates through partnerships between USDA, state agencies and local organizations.
"When it comes to our children, we must do everything possible to provide them the nutrition needed to be healthy, active and ready to win the future," said Vilsack. "But we also recognize that government cannot address this challenge alone, which is why this week we join our valued partners to raise awareness about the nutrition gap low-income children face when school is out of session. Working together, government, non-profit and faith-based organizations, as well as the public, can make sure children have access to nutritious food year round."
Today, at least 17 million children in the United States face a higher risk for hunger during the summer. Although more than 20 million children nationwide receive free and reduced-priced meals through the National School Lunch Program [http://www.fns.usda.gov/cnd/lunch/] during the regular school year, little more than 3 million kids are fed in summer meal programs.
This week, USDA and its partners will redouble efforts to highlight the important nutrition benefits provided by the SFSP and other healthy meal options available for low-income children across the country. This summer:
- Let's Move! Faith and Communities (part of First Lady Michelle Obama's Let's Move! [http://www.letsmove.gov/] initiative) will work with partners to host new feeding sites at congregations and neighborhood organizations;
- the Corporation for National and Community Service's 515 AmeriCorps VISTA Summer Associates will work at anti-hunger organizations across the country to feed more children in programs, including the SFSP;
- sponsors will benefit from new waivers to simplify existing regulations [http://www.fns.usda.gov/cga/PressReleases/2011/0149.htm] in the SFSP to streamline ways to feed low-income children when school is out;
- several states will test innovative enhancements to the SFSP, including the provision of food backpacks to provide assistance over weekends, and meal delivery to reach children in rural areas.
"Each summer, millions of families struggle to provide their children with nutritious meals when schools close," said Kevin Concannon, Under Secretary for Food, Nutrition, and Consumer Services. "SFSP fills this gap by marshalling resources to curb food insecurity and end hunger for our nation's children.
To find a summer feeding site in your community, call the National Hunger Hotline at 1-866-3-Hungry or 1-877-8-Hambre." To find more ways you can help, search for volunteer opportunities at http://www.serve.gov/endhunger [http://www.serve.gov/endhunger] .
Improving child nutrition is the focal point of the Healthy, Hunger-Free Kids Act signed into law by President Obama in December 2010. The legislation reauthorized the Summer Food Service Program [http://www.fns.usda.gov/cnd/summer/] and USDA's other child nutrition programs. The Act allows USDA, for the first time in over 30 years, the chance to make real reforms to school meals and increase access to these critical programs. The Healthy, Hunger-Free Kids Act is also the legislative centerpiece of First Lady Michelle Obama's Let's Move! [http://www.letsmove.gov/] initiative to end childhood obesity in a generation.
USDA's Food and Nutrition Service [http://www.fns.usda.gov/fns/] (FNS) oversees the administration of 15 nutrition assistance programs, including the Summer Food Service Program and other child nutrition programs, that touch the lives of one in four Americans over the course of a year. These programs work in concert to form a national safety net against hunger. Visit http://www.fns.usda.gov [http://www.fns.usda.gov/] for information about FNS and nutrition assistance programs and go to http://www.fns.usda.gov/ech/ [http://www.fns.usda.gov/ech/] to see how you can help end childhood hunger.