Is Summer Really a Vacation if You're Hungry?

Contact: Martin Ackley, Director of Public and Governmental Affairs 517-241-4395
Agency: Education

February 3, 2017

LANSING – The Michigan Department of Education (MDE) is looking for community partners, sponsors, and potential site locations to participate in Michigan’s Summer Meet Up and Eat Up initiative and run summer food programs to prevent more than a half-million children in Michigan from going hungry when school lunchrooms close for summer break.

The Summer Food Service Program (SFSP) can fill the summer hunger gap for hundreds of thousands of children if there is an increase in community awareness, local government involvement, sponsors to run the program, and sites to serve meals.

“Many families across Michigan struggle with food security, and we can’t have children going hungry in the summer when programs like this are available,” Whiston said. “I am calling on schools, churches, local government, and civic organizations to step up and have a positive impact on the lives and health of children in their community by supporting the Summer Food Service Program.”

In 2016, on average, 535,000 low-income Michigan children received meals during the school year, and only about 90,000 (17 percent) received free meals or snacks at approved summer meal sites in their communitiesMichigan has the potential to reach the national goal of 40 percent of children who are eligible for free or reduced-priced meals to take advantage of the SFSP.

“Nutrition, especially during the summer months, is important for a child’s continuous learning,” said State Superintendent Brian Whiston. “We need more sponsors and more sites around Michigan to ensure our children continue to be nourished, continue to learn over the summer months, and continue our drive to become a Top 10 education state in 10 years.”

Research shows a direct relationship between good nutrition and learning. Meet Up and Eat Up is a key building block in Michigan communities to develop healthy, happy kids who are ready to learn.

The Summer Food Service Program serves nutritious meals to children up to age 18 living in low-income areas (where 50 percent or more of the students qualify for free or reduced price school meals). The program can operate in schools, public housing centers, playgrounds, camps, parks, and faith-based facilities. Many summer food sites provide educational enrichment and recreational activities in addition to meals and snacks, helping children continue to learn and stay safe when school is not in session.

It is estimated that families receiving food assistance spend an additional $300 a month on groceries during the summer. This can cause a financial burden and struggle. Communities offering SFSP sites can help relieve this burden for families.

“There is a desperate need and the food and funds are available,” Whiston said. “It is important to embrace efforts to increase the awareness of the program’s availability, get more community members involved, and expand participation around the state to serve more children. The Summer Food Service Program improves child nutrition and health, and can boost the state’s economy.”

Sponsors of summer feeding sites receive federal reimbursement for both the meals served to children and the administrative costs of serving the meals. New sponsors receive free training and technical assistance from MDE. A variety of sponsors can participate such as: public school districts or nonprofit private schools; public or private nonprofit residential summer camps; local, county, or state government agencies; colleges or universities; or private nonprofit organizations.

If you are interested in more information about how you can help feed your community this summer, please contact MDE by March 15, 2017. Program information may be obtained from MDE’s Office of School Support Services, Summer Food Service Program, 608 West Allegan Street, P.O. Box 30008, Lansing, Michigan 48909, 517-373-3347; or on the Michigan SFSP website.

The Summer Food Service Program, administered by MDE through funds from the U.S. Department of Agriculture, is available to children 18 and under regardless of race, color, national origin, sex, age, or disability.