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 the Summer Food Service Program (SFSP). This program works to ensure that children receive meals during the summer months, when many children who otherwise would benefit from school breakfast and lunch often go hungry. The SFSP is administered in Virginia by the Department of Education (VDOE), which is accepting applications for participation until June 15, 2018.
First Lady Northam noted that 3.7 million meals were served last year at 1500 sites, and reminded participants of the importance of good nutrition to children’s developing brains. 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.
Even with strong local efforts underway, the SFSP does not reach as many children as it could. Sarah Steely, Program Manager for No Kid Hungry Virginia, reported that 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. She offered several suggestions for local officials who would like to get involved:
- Learn more about the program. A local government toolkit is available here.
- Visit a summer meals site, which can help to raise awareness about the program.
- Promote the text number – students and families can text “FOOD” or “COMIDA” to 877-877 to receive a list of meal sites nearby. 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 through media interviews or special events.
VACo Contact: Katie Boyle