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July 13, 2016
Summer Food Service Programs Kick Off Across Massachusetts during Summer Meals Month

Project Bread funding nearly $60,000 to support Summer Food Service Program

(BOSTON– July 13, 2016) Each day this summer more than 60,000 children will enjoy a free healthy breakfast, lunch, snack or dinner at one or more of the 1000 Summer Food Service Program (SFSP) sites operating across Massachusetts. The SFSP is a federally funded, state administered and locally operated nutrition program that provides meals at no cost to youth ages 18 and under when school is not in session.

The SFSP is administered by the Massachusetts Department of Elementary and Secondary Education (ESE) with support from the Child Nutrition Outreach Program (CNOP) at Project Bread. Summer meal sites are located in pre-approved, safe and income eligible areas throughout the state and are operated and maintained by sponsors in these communities.

Summer meal sites are vital resources for more than 400,000 children across Massachusetts that qualify for free or low-cost school meals during the school year. While children can rely on these meals during the school year, they lose access to these nutritious meals during the summer.  Families often struggle to absorb the additional meal costs, which puts students at risk for hunger, malnutrition and increased summer learning loss. The SFSP fills this meal gap, providing meals that meet federal nutrition standards at sites such as schools, YMCAs, and churches. Meals are typically served alongside enrichment activities that keep children learning and engaged so they can return to school both well-nourished and ready to learn.

Last summer more than 2.7 million meals were served across the Commonwealth, yet only 15% of eligible youth participated in the SFSP. In an effort to raise awareness about this valuable program, Project Bread provided approximately $60,000 in grant funding to support SFSP marketing and outreach efforts. “Program awareness remains one of the biggest barriers to participation,” according to Ellen Parker, executive director at Project Bread. “During the school year, school meals are a regular part of students’ routines, whereas during the summer, schedules and routines change. Our grants are designed to support sponsors’ efforts to reach children and families in their communities”, said Parker.

In addition to Project Bread’s efforts, numerous stakeholders in Massachusetts are collaborating to intensify their outreach efforts to help raise awareness of the program. For the second consecutive summer, the Baker-Polito administration declared July “Summer Meals Month” in Massachusetts. “The commitment of numerous stakeholders and the Massachusetts delegation to raising awareness about the Summer Food Service Program last summer was incredible,” said Robert Leshin, Acting Director for the Office for Food and Nutrition Programs at the MA ESE. Leshin continued, “We can build on our progress by redoubling outreach efforts throughout this summer. The SFSP can make a substantial difference for the hundreds of thousands of children in our state whose families struggle to afford enough food.”

Most SFSP sites open by July 1st and run until mid-August. Parents, guardians, and teens can get a complete list of programs across the state by calling Project Bread’s FoodSource Hotline at 1-800-645-8333 or by going to www.meals4kids.org. Parents, guardians and teens can also download the “SummerEats” mobile app for free on iPhone and Android or send a text to our Text 4 Food number at 617-863-6325 to find the nearest SFSP sites to them.  To learn more about the Summer Food Service Program (SFSP), you can visit www.fns.usda.gov/sfsp/summer-food-service-program.

The 2016 Summer Food Service Program is sponsored by the United States Department of Agriculture, an equal opportunity provider and employer, and is administered by the Massachusetts Department of Elementary and Secondary Education. For more information about the Summer Food Service Program (SFSP), please visit: www.fns.usda.gov/sfsp/summer-food-service-program.

About Project Bread
Project Bread is the only statewide anti-hunger organization committed to providing people of all ages, cultures, and walks of life with sustainable, reliable access to nutritious food. From community-based meal programs, to early childhood and school nutrition initiatives, to improved access to farm-to-table resources, Project Bread approaches hunger as a complex problem with multiple solutions. With funds raised through The Walk for Hunger and other sources, Project Bread pioneers innovative initiatives and supports effective programs to eradicate hunger in our state. For more information, visitwww.projectbread.orgwww.facebook.com/projectbread, or www.twitter.com/walkforhunger

About the Massachusetts Department of Elementary and Secondary Education
The Massachusetts Department of Elementary and Secondary Education, sometimes referred to as the Massachusetts Department of Education, is the state education agency for the Commonwealth of Massachusetts. It is responsible for public education at the elementary and secondary levels, and is governed by the Massachusetts Board of Education. For more information, visit www.doe.mass.edu.

About the Child Nutrition Outreach Program

The Child Nutrition Outreach Program (CNOP) works to increase participation in two underutilized federal child nutrition programs, the National School Breakfast Program and the Summer Food Service Program. Funded by the Massachusetts Department of Elementary and Secondary Education (ESE) and administered by Project Bread, CNOP has been supporting school nutrition directors, superintendents, principals, and other school personnel since 1994.  The CNOP team is available to assist all school districts within Massachusetts and offers a wide variety of free resources to ensure that all children in MA have access to and utilize these important programs.

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Filed under: Healthy Food, News and Events, Children and Schools, Community Solutions, For the Media