Summer is Next Week
Gosh, the time flies by. It feels like summer will be here next week, and I haven’t used up my Copper and Eldora ski passes yet!
As it turns out, I am actually thinking about summer because the League is a proud partner of the Summer Food Service Program (SFSP), administered by the Colorado Department of Education (CDE). That effort is starting to gear up for the year. Let me share some facts with you as to this program’s importance and why municipal leaders ought to care.
During the school year, 21 million children receive free and reduced-price meals through the School Breakfast and National School Lunch Programs (NSLP). But when school is out, many low-income children relying on these school meals go hungry. To fill this gap, the U.S. Department of Agriculture (USDA) provides federally funded meals through the SFSP. This program provides free, nutritious meals to children at approved sites in areas with high concentrations of low-income children. Unfortunately, these summer meals reach only about 16 percent of the eligible children.
In 2015, there were 80 program sponsors and 548 sites in Colorado, with 1,522,322 meals served. I find this to be very impressive.
The goal of the CDE Office of School Nutrition (OSN) is to increase program access and awareness in Colorado. While 1.5 million meals were served this past summer, those involved hope to increase the number by 5 percent this year.
The CDE OSN collaborates with statewide organizations, such as CML, to help promote the program and connect with community stakeholders to increase food access for families. The CDE OSN also began a statewide marketing campaign in 2014 including RTD bus and light rail advertisements in the Denver area, AMC Movie Theater ads, Family Dollar receipt advertisements, and summer postcards (which the League helped to distribute). That effort will continue to expand this year.
The SFSP brings federal dollars into communities in the form of combined reimbursements for meals and operations/administrative costs. Community leaders can help by making SFSP a priority.
As municipal leaders, I would ask you to commit to empower other community organizations and champion summer meals. Let these groups know that federal funds are available to support their efforts.
For more information about the program, visit its website or contact Ashley Moen by email or at 303-866-6653.
Hunger Free Colorado, in partnership with many organizations, including CML, has put together a toolkit for municipalities - Fueling Our Children for Success: The Role of Cities in Reducing Child Hunger.
I hope you will join me and start thinking about summer and committing your municipality to endorse and support this program. I would love to hear from you.