ASHLAND, Va. — Most kids look forward to the end of school and the start of summer vacation, but for some it can also mean the loss of the regular meals they rely on during the school year.
USDA’s summer meal programs, including the Summer Food Service Program (SFSP) and the Seamless Summer Option (SSO), are there to help families ensure children have access to nutritious meals and snacks that help them learn and grow during the summer months.
Schools bring children together while they are in session, but when they let out it is difficult to reach all of the 22 million children who receive free and reduced-price meals during the school year. This is especially true in rural areas where issues of geography and transportation can make it hard for kids to get to sites serving summer meals.
This summer, two USDA agencies, the Food and Nutrition Service and Rural Development (RD), are once again partnering to provide free, nutritious meals to children in rural areas. I joined RD Virginia State Director Elizabeth Green on June 18 to kick-off the summer meals season at the Laurel Woods Apartments, a Multi-Family Housing site in Ashland, Virginia.
Sites like Laurel Woods are not just providing nutritious food. They are fun places for kids to learn, play and grow. During my visit, I saw kids and teens enjoying their lunches in between playing games like basketball, hopscotch, “Not in my square” beanbag game, jump rope, and blowing bubbles. You can see from the pictures that we were all having fun. As Mrs. Green said, “The summer meals program is a great program because we come into the community and feed young children. In the Rural Development Multi-Family Housing sites, they fed more than 22,000 children in Virginia alone last year.”
All around the country, there are many sites that serve free, nutritious summer meals in convenient locations like the Laurel Woods Apartment. Families can find the nearest summer meals sites to them by visiting the Summer Meals Site Finder, calling the USDA National Hunger Hotline at 1-866-348-6479, or texting “Summer Meals” to 97779.
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