Summer can be the hungriest time of the year for Virginia children who depend on school meals. Kids who suffer from hunger in the summer are more likely to experience the “summer slide,” losing what they learned and starting the next school year behind their peers.
The Summer Meals Program fills in the gap by providing free meals to children and teens 18 years old and younger when school is out of session. The Program is funded by the United States Department of Agriculture, administered by the Virginia Department of Education, and operated by local organizations throughout the Commonwealth.
In 2018, 149 organizations served over 3.8 million meals at over 1,550 unique locations (such as churches, libraries, schools, and parks). Even with strong local efforts underway, the program does not reach as many children as it could – only an estimated 15 percent of Virginia children who receive free or reduced-price lunch during the school year participate in the summer meals program.
Below are several ways for local officials to get involved in the Summer Meals Program.
Learn more about existing efforts
In 2018, First Lady of Virginia Pamela Northam and City of Richmond Mayor Levar Stoney kicked off Memorial Day weekend with a discussion of the ways local elected officials can get involved in Summer Meals. Mayor Stoney discussed efforts to promote the SFSP in Richmond, including collaborations with local nonprofit and faith-based communities and a collective effort by many city agencies, including the parks and recreation department, police department, libraries, and transit system. Listen to a recording of the webinar here.
Promote the text number
Starting in June, students and families can text “FOOD” or “COMIDA” to 877-877 to receive a list of meal sites and operating times nearest them. This number could be publicized through social media as well as in places such as community health centers, libraries, and grocery stores.
Celebrate the program
Visit a summer meals site, which can help to raise awareness about the program. Draw attention to sites in your community through media interviews or special events. Check out the Local Government Toolkit for more ideas.
Contact Sarah Steely (firstname.lastname@example.org or 570.854.5023) to learn more or get connected.