Is it too soon to plan for SUMMER MEALS?
DID YOU KNOW… Summer meals provide a healthy meal and a safe setting for students? According to a national survey conducted by the No Kid Hungry campaign, results found that summer hunger is a serious issue. “More than half of families participating in free or reduced price lunch during the school year find it harder to make ends meet during the summer. Most low-income families (62 percent) report spending more on food during the summer, with an average increase of $316 more per month. While most low-income families (68 percent) were interested in summer meals programs, only 40 percent are aware of where summer meal sites are located. Families most trusted schools as a source of information about summer meals programs, followed by places of worship and grocery stores.”
DID YOU KNOW… that Summer is just around the corner?! Now is the time to start your annual summer school planning! USDA is ramping up with summer school materials and making sure that your summer program is as robust as possible will ensure success for you and for the children you feed. Here is a tip sheet provided by USDA for Proactive Planning for Summer Meal Sponsors.
Below are some tips to help you run a seamless and successful summer program:
Weigh your options. There are several summer meal programs you can choose from to best compliment your meal program. Seamless Summer Option (SSO), Summer Food Service Program (SFSP) or the regular National School Lunch Program (NSLP).
Work with your vendor and/or menu planning team to streamline your menu. Summertime can bring a ton of customers, so work with your menu planning team to create a healthy, delicious menu that also streamlines the work in your kitchen.
Market your program. Some federal summer programs have marketing requirements. However, regardless of federal requirements, marketing can make your program more successful and reach more students. Inform parents prior to school getting out of your program and give them the tools and resources they need to find feeding sites in the area. The USDA provides a Summer Meal Finder, which is a great resource for your families. 211.org is a great resource for families seeking assistance!
Work to address barriers. According to parent focus groups conducted by No Kid Hungry, “barriers to participation include transportation, concerns about safety and legitimacy of sites, food quality and availability of activities.... Focus group research found that parents would like to receive information about summer meals through schools. Parents also would like to receive information about summer meals in the mail, local radio and TV stations, community newspapers and local supermarkets.”
Get creative with your program. Make your summer meal site fun for the students and parents! Partner with local community organizations to have fun activities for the students and their families while they eat. Local dietitians can come talk about healthy eating, the library system could host a storytime, local government agencies can have resources on assistance programs in the area, a chef can do a cooking lesson or even have the fire and police department provide a safety demonstration! See some Tips for Success here.
Why not start now? We are here to help! School Food and Wellness Group has the experience and resources to help you start up or expand your summer meal program. Contact us today to learn more.