Today Governor Terry McAuliffe announced that the number of feeding sites for the national Summer Food Service Program (SFSP) increased from 1,539 in 2013 to 1,590 this year. Additionally, the number of meals served during June 2014 rose from 759,643 to 928,057, more than a 22 percent increase over the previous year.
“Summer meals services are critical components in keeping our children healthy, well fed, and ready to lead active and engaged livelihoods,” said Governor McAuliffe. “When our children have access to healthy food, they are better prepared to learn and succeed, and the Summer Meals Service Program ensures that Virginia children and families can access quality, nutritious meals even during the months when school is not in session.”
Feeding sites are located within school attendance zones where at least 50 percent of the children are eligible to receive free and reduced lunches. More than 512,000 students in Virginia public schools currently qualify.
SFSP was established by the United States Department of Agriculture (USDA) to ensure that low income children continue to receive nutritious meals all year round. Free meals, that meet Federal nutrition guidelines, are provided to all children under the age of 18 years in areas that qualify. During the summer of 2013, approximately 3,985,805 meals were served during the May through August.
A number of factors helped increase participation in the SFSP this year including a partnership with the Library of Virginia, which linked the feeding program with its summer reading program in local libraries, and the robust efforts of First Lady of Virginia Dorothy McAuliffe.
“It’s exciting to know that so many more of Virginia’s children are receiving nutritious meals during the summer months when for so many a meal is not a guarantee,” said First Lady, Dorothy McAuliffe. “It is through strong collaboration and partnerships across the Commonwealth that we can continue to see success in alleviating childhood hunger and improving access to healthful foods.”
“Summer can be the hungriest time of year for those children who rely on school meals,” said Josh Wachs, Chief Strategy Officer for Share Our Strength. “The No Kid Hungry campaign was proud to work with Governor and First Lady McAuliffe this summer to feed more kids than ever before. Their bold and innovative strategy to expand the summer meals program resulted in a huge win for kids and families across the Commonwealth.”
Governor McAuliffe and the First Lady are committed to ensuring that participation in the Summer Food Service Program continues to grow. Staff from Virginia Department of Health (VDH) will be conducting community meetings this week to strengthen the state’s partnership with sponsors and feeding site operators in efforts to expand participation in 2015. If your non-profit organization is interested in becoming a sponsor or feeding site, please contact VDH at 804-864-7800.