For the fourth consecutive summer, Project Bread partnered with Congressman Jim McGovern to host the "Summer Food Rocks Tour" throughout Central and Western Massachusetts on Friday, July 21. The tour highlighted the Summer Food Service Program (SFSP) and how it fills the meal gap left when school lets out for the summer and students can no longer rely on school meals. The SFSP is a federally-funded program, administered in our state by the Massachusetts Department of Elementary and Secondary Education. It provides meals at no cost to kids 18 and under throughout the summer months.
"For millions of low-income students, summer break isn't as carefree as it should be," Congressman McGovern said. "During the school year, they have access to reliable, healthy school breakfasts and school lunches. But, when school's out, these children – and their families – are often left scrambling to find enough to eat."
This year's tour included visits in Leominster, Athol, Greenfield, and Worcester. The tour began at the Riverside Village housing complex in Leominster, where State Representative Natalie Higgins helped Congressman McGovern pass out breakfast. State Representative Susannah Whipps joined the Congressman for a roundtable discussion in Athol to discuss the challenges of running and expanding summer feeding programs in rural areas. State Representative Paul Mark joined the Congressman later that morning in Greenfield to pass out snacks at the Oak Courts housing complex. The Congressman wrapped up the tour in Worcester with State Senator Michael Moore and State Representative Mary Keefe, passing out meals at the Main South Club and later at the Shine Pool, where the Congressman also led a roundtable discussion on the challenge of increasing SFSP utilization among teens.
For the more than 400,000 children across Massachusetts who qualify for free or low-cost school meals, summer meal sites are vital resources during the summer months. Without proper nutrition during the summer, children are more likely to develop unhealthy eating habits, gain weight, and experience learning loss, leaving many at a disadvantage compared to their peers when they return to school in the fall. The meals and programming provided at SFSP sites help to ensure that children have continued access to nutritious food during the summer months and can return to school healthy and ready to learn.
Congressman McGovern was joined on the day-long tour by Siobhan O'Riordan and Eddie Ortega from the USDA Food and Nutrition Service Northeast Region, Robert Leshin and Irene Sedlacko from the Office for Food and Nutrition Programs at the MA Department of Elementary and Secondary Education, and Noreen Kelly and Maura Ackerman from Project Bread, as well as many other state and local leaders.
"In the richest country in the world, there's no excuse for any of our kids to go hungry," the Congressman shared as the tour drew to a close. "I am thankful to have so many strong partners at the USDA and here in Massachusetts to keep this program strong. Together, we're helping to ensure that all our students get the healthy meals they need to continue to learn and grow all year-round."
The full press release from the event can be found here. Photos from the event can be found on our Facebook page. Follow Project Bread's Child Nutrition Outreach Program on Facebook, Twitter, and Instagram for more photos of the event and other updates!