Taking a Stance on Providing Access to Nutritious Meals for Children and Families Throughout Summer

by Mya Price Programs Specialist, Feeding America

When school is out and school lunches are no longer available, food banks across the network are stepping in to fill the summer meal gap. In Summer 2018, the Feeding America network of food banks served over 23 million meals through the federal Summer Food Service Program (SFSP), Backpack and School Pantry Programs. Additionally, over 126 food banks operated child congregate feeding sites, 112 operated BackPack Program sites, and 100 food banks operated School Pantry Program sites. No matter the program, as a national network we have seen an increase in the number of promising practices that are taking place to increase access to nutritious meals for children and families throughout the summer months.

To highlight key efforts that are taking place, our 2019 Enterprise Rent-A-Car and Hershey Foundation grantees are implementing a wide spectrum of program models to increase nutritious food access.

Serving Children and Families through Mobile Pantry Produce Models

“Second Harvest proposes to grow two existing programs in Lafourche and Evangeline Parishes: summer feeding programs and mobile pantries. While our mobile pantries are popular in both communities, summer feeding is less well-known. This joint programmatic approach will help more children and families take advantage of summer feeding, while ensuring more nutritious food is delivered to these families.” – Second Harvest Food Bank of Greater New Orleans and Acadiana New Orleans, LA

Ensuring Children and Families Receive Access Through the Distribution of Hot Meals

“For the Kids Cafe Program model, we prepare hot, nutritious meals in our state-of-the-art commercial kitchen and truck such meals to all sites. Feeding the Valley purchases, or recovers through donations, huge quantities and varieties of nutritious, healthy foods (particularly “Foods to Encourage”) including fruits and vegetables, lean protein, whole grains and low-fat dairy. These healthy ingredients are prepared into hot, nutritious meals in our commercial kitchen, sealed and placed in cambros, and trucked daily to our Kids Cafe sites. The two new Kids Cafes will operate where kids are already congregating over the summer, at two churches. Very much tailored to meet the needs of these rural communities, churches have the trusted leadership, staff, volunteers and fellowships halls, not to mention dedication to service, to meet the needs of summer meals for kids. One of the sites will provide meals three days per week and the other, five days per week.” – Feeding the Valley Food Bank Midland, GA

Implementing a Fresh Produce Program for Children and Families at Housing Complexes 

“Apartment complexes, Boys and Girls Clubs and pantries that have room for distribution and see a large number of children during the summer months. The program will also provide a variety of games, nutrition education opportunities and other enrichment activities for participating children. In addition to providing children with healthy meals, and to reach more families with food assistance, East Texas Food Bank’s Fresh Produce Program will conduct produce distributions once a month in June, July and August through our area partner agencies for the duration of the Summer Food Service Program. All participants at the SFSP sites will receive information about the additional assistance available through the produce distributions. In the last 12 months, East Texas Food Bank has distributed an average of 62,892 pounds of fresh produce per month across Cherokee, Henderson, and Rusk counties. With the addition of these new sites, we project to distribute 86,892 pounds per month across these 3 counties, an increase of 38%. This will give families in these counties greater access to emergency food assistance and allow us to get more food to more people.” – East Texas Food Bank, TX

While this is just a brief feature of the programming taking place across the network to ensure children and families receive access to fresh and quality meals, stay tuned throughout the summer months to learn more about program highlights from network food banks engaged in these efforts. For questions regarding this post, please contact the Feeding America Programs.

Mya joined Feeding America in December 2017. As a member on the Programs Team, she works closely with afterschool and summer nutrition programs. She previously worked with God’s Pantry Food Bank, as a Child Hunger Corps Member, in her hometown of Lexington, Kentucky. Currently, she is based in Washington, D.C.