CHARLESTON, W.Va. — Thousands of West Virginia schoolchildren will continue to be fed through the summer thanks to the West Virginia Department of Education (WVDE) Summer Food Service Program (SFSP). Gov. Earl Ray Tomblin and other officials met with children at the Martin Luther King Jr. Community Center, operated by the Partnership of African American Churches, in Charleston on Wednesday to kick off the program.
In recognition of the dozens of community partners that help with the program, Gov. Tomblin proclaimed June 11, 2014 as Summer Food Service Program Day and presented the copy of the proclamation to Rev. James Patterson and Edna Greene. He encouraged communities across the Mountain State to make the program a vital part of their communities.
The federally funded initiative is sponsored by WVDE Office of Child Nutrition and provides funds to county school boards of education and other non-profit organizations to help feed hungry kids every summer. The SFSP ensures that West Virginia children in lower-income areas continue to receive free, nutritious meals during summer break.
An average of 179,000 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 with the close of the school year.
"When school's out, hunger doesn't take a summer vacation," said Rick Goff, executive director of the WVDE Office of Child Nutrition. "Our office receives calls asking 'Could you open school today? I have four kids at home and they have nothing to eat,' and that's when it really it hits home; hunger is still very much alive in West Virginia." Last year there were 409 summer sites serving an average of 12,000 meals per day. "In all, we were proud to serve 585,125 meals last summer," said Goff.
"The food you get through these programs are healthy foods," Gov. Earl Ray Tomblin told the children. "I encourage you to come to a site near you to receive nutritious meals." Summer food sites who will be participating in the program include local boards of education, parks and recreation, colleges and universities, community action agencies, churches and other faith based groups. A full list of locations can be found at http://wvde.state.wv.us/ocn-download/Forms/SFSP/2014/SFSP_SiteMap2014.pdf.
Diana Limbacher, United States Department of Agriculture Deputy Regional Administrator, Mid Atlantic Region said West Virginia is leading the country in feeding children and is held up as an example for other states when it comes to fighting hunger. "Our partnership with the West Virginia Department of Education, Office of Child Nutrition, allows them to identify agencies, and our office to provide funds for summer feeding sites throughout the state. We wish all of our agencies were like West Virginia."
Individuals can find information on their closest summer feeding sites by calling the National Hunger Hotline at 1-866-3HUNGRY, visiting www.whyhunger.org or by texting WVMEALS to 877877.