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In an effort to head off hunger, the Iowa Department of Education is seeking sponsors for a federally funded program that provides nutritious meals or snacks to children in low-income areas of the state during the summer months.

Summer can often mean the opposite of sunshine and fun for more than 200,000 Iowa children who, instead, face hunger. Once the academic school year ends, many children who qualify to receive school-sponsored, free and reduced-price meals may go without.

The U.S. Department of Agriculture’s Summer Food Service Program (SFSP), administered by the Iowa Department of Education, aims to remedy childhood food insecurity by providing nutritious meals and snacks to children in low-income areas during the summer months. Most recently, the program also has been used during emergency school closures and the 2020-21 school year because of flexibilities put in place as a response to the pandemic.

The program uses local sponsors and partner organizations to manage summer meal services. Typical sponsors include public or nonpublic schools, public or private non-profit colleges/universities, private non-profit organizations and camps, and local, county, municipal, state or federal agencies, with serving sites located in schools, churches, community centers, parks, libraries, housing complexes or camps.

To qualify as a site, the meal service must be either located in a low-income neighborhood where at least 50 percent of the children are eligible for free and reduced-price meals or must serve primarily low-income children and not duplicate services already being provided by another organization. Once a site location is established, all children 18 and under are welcome to participate.

In addition, the program was expanded because of the pandemic to allow additional sites through June 30. As outlined by COVID-19: Child Nutrition Response #60, the program now allows states the ability to operate SFSP sites in areas that are not located in “areas in which poor economic conditions exist.” These sites include:

Organizations can also get involved by partnering with existing sponsors to promote site locations, provide activities for children, volunteers, transportation assistance and more.

Organizations interested in learning how to get involved are invited to visit the Department’s Summer Food Service Program webpage or contact Stephanie Dross at 515-281-4760 or [email protected].

Author: Press Release