First Lady holds conference call on Summer Food Service Program with local leaders

March 17, 2017

First Lady McAuliffe joined The Honorable Pam Hemminger, the Mayor of Chapel Hill, N.C., and representatives from No Kid Hungry Virginia on March 15 to discuss ways that local governments can be involved in the Summer Food Service Program (SFSP), a federally-funded, state-administered program that ensures that low-income children continue to receive nutritious meals when school is not in session. No Kid Hungry Virginia, a public-private partnership among the First Lady, the Virginia Department of Health, the Virginia Department of Education, nonprofit and corporate partners, describes summer as the “hungriest time of year” for school children, estimating that only 13 percent of children who are eligible for free or reduced-price meals at school are receiving free meals during the summer.

Mayor Hemminger discussed Chapel Hill’s program, which was initiated after the Mayor worked to bring together existing community resources to develop a distribution mechanism for summer meals. The program used volunteers who signed up through a website for two-hour shifts; during each shift, a volunteer picked up food and enrichment materials from a central site and delivered them to the SFSP site, participated in enrichment activities with the children, and then returned the materials to the central site. The Mayor noted that benefits of the program included new collaboration among existing community groups and support for participating children beyond the food itself – for example, the program has distributed 3,500 books.

Several ways for local governments to work with the SFSP were discussed on the call. First, local governments can sponsor a meal distribution site. Schools and parks are frequently used as SFSP sites, and No Kid Hungry Virginia staff offered to facilitate planning meetings to launch new sites for interested localities. Alternatively, localities can work to promote existing SFSP sites; No Kid Hungry Virginia maintains a list of participating sites in each locality and can share that information with interested local officials. Secondly, local officials can promote the program and encourage children to participate, perhaps by holding a kickoff event for the program or visiting SFSP sites. Lastly, local officials can raise awareness about SFSP sites through a variety of means, including enlisting community partners such as local clergy and law enforcement, developing partnerships with trusted sites such as hospitals to distribute information, and promoting the program on social media.

Sarah Steely, the Outreach Associate for No Kid Hungry Virginia, is available as a resource for interested localities. She is reachable at 804.864.7510 or at sarah.steely@vdh.virginia.gov.

VACo Contact: Katie Boyle

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