|For Immediate Release|
|Thursday, July 3, 2014|
|Contact:||Jacqueline Reis 781-338-3115|
Summer Meals Program Targets Childhood Hunger by Providing Access to Free, Healthy Meals to Children and Youth
MALDEN - The Patrick Administration this week launched the 2014 Summer Food Service Program, a federally funded initiative that provides free meals to children and youth age 18 and younger when school is not in session.
Students who eat breakfast and lunch each day are healthier and better prepared to learn. But according to Feeding America's "Map the Meal Gap" project, nearly 230,000 children in Massachusetts lack access, at times, to healthy meals, a situation that worsens during the summer months when students lose access to school meals. Summer meal sites are located in areas throughout the state, and meals are often provided in conjunction with enrichment and recreational activities.
"It is critically important that children across the Commonwealth have access to healthy, nutritious meals during the summer months," said Governor Deval Patrick. "When we invest in healthy meals for our youth, we improve their chances of success in the classroom and beyond."
"Our schools do more than just teach our children, and the necessity of this program underscores that work in communities across the Commonwealth," said Secretary of Education Matthew Malone. "If we want our children to be healthy and active in the summer months, we have to ensure they have access to quality meals, even when their families can't provide them. This program does just that."
The Summer Food Service Program (SFSP) is funded by the U.S. Department of Agriculture (USDA) and administered in Massachusetts by the Department of Elementary and Secondary Education. The program provides children with access to nutritious meals at schools, parks, swimming pools, playgrounds, and other community organizations. Without access to these meals, children are at greater risk of unhealthy eating habits, fatigue, weight gain, and summer learning loss. Last summer, the summer meals program fed on average 56,000 children and youth per day across the state.
"Children and youth who have access to healthy meals each day are able to focus and perform better – whether in the classroom during the school year or on the playground during the summer," said Elementary and Secondary Education Commissioner Mitchell D. Chester. "I encourage families to seek out summer meal sites, and I hope additional sponsors will step forward so we can ensure that no child goes hungry this summer."
"The Summer Food Service Program is a vital program to feed children when school is out of session. This program supplements the work of the Department of Transitional Assistance and highlights the importance of access to healthy foods," said Department of Transitional Assistance (DTA) Commissioner Stacey Monahan. "DTA will continue to work with DESE to support ending childhood hunger."
During summer 2013, more than 93 sponsors helped the program serve meals to children at 920 locations. Meals are served at no charge to children 18 years of age and younger. No registration or proof of eligibility is required. Meals are the same for all children regardless of race, color, national origin, sex, age or disability. The free meal service varies depending on the community.
To learn more about the program, go to http://meals4kids.org/sfsp. To find information on site locations, including the start and end times of service, go to http://meals4kids.org/find-summer-meal-site, contact the Department's Child Nutrition Outreach Program at 617-723-5000, or send a text to 617-863-MEAL (617-863-6325). To watch a short video on the Summer Food Service Program, go to http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=OSKiRx9mquM.