CHARLESTON, W.Va. — With the start of summer, it’s time to think about how children who receive free or reduced-priced lunch in school will eat healthy while school is out. The West Virginia Department of Education (WVDE) Office of Child Nutrition, a proud sponsor of the USDA Summer Food Service Program (SFSP), will kick-off their Summer Food Program today at 11:00 a.m. at Elk Elementary Center located at 3320 Pennsylvania Ave in Charleston.
The federally funded initiative provides funds to participating agencies which include local boards of education, parks and recreation, colleges and universities, community action agencies, churches and other faith based groups to help feed hungry kids every summer.
An average of 173,000 West Virginia schoolchildren depend on free and reduced-price meals at school and have access to school meals throughout the school year as part of the School Breakfast and National School Lunch Programs. However, those meals end when school is out for the summer months. The SFSP ensures that children in lower-income areas continue to receive free, nutritious meals during summer break.
“Last year there were 420 summer sites serving an average of 12,000 meals per day. In all, we were proud to serve 552,912 meals last summer. This summer there are 136 agencies participating and over 484 feeding sites,” said Rick Goff, Executive Director of the WVDE Office of Child Nutrition.
"It is very important to feed children healthy meals because hunger doesn't take a summer vacation," said Diane Limbacher with the United States Department of Agriculture. "Our partnership with the WVDE Office of Child Nutrition, allows them to identify agencies, and our office to provide funds for summer feeding sites throughout the state. We are focused on increasing the number of feeding sites and outreach to the children that may not have access to meals during the summer.”
This year’s kick-off will be centered around a West Virginia theme in honor of West Virginia Day. Local chefs will prepare a nutritious farm-to-school lunch for children with locally grown food.
Individuals can find information on their closest summer feeding sites by visiting http://wvde.state.wv.us/ocn-download/Forms/SFSP/2015/SFSP_SiteMap2015.pdf, calling the National Hunger Hotline at 1-866-3HUNGRY or by texting FOOD to 877-877.
For more resources on the SFSP, contact the WVDE Office of Child Nutrition at (304) 558-3396 or visit http://wvde.state.wv.us/child-nutrition/sfsp/resources.html. The WVDE Communications Office can be reached at (304) 558-2699.