Today, Agriculture Secretary Tom Vilsack kicked off National Summer Food Service Program Week by reiterating USDA's commitment to ensuring that no child goes hungry when school is out and highlighting progress towards USDA's goal of serving 5 million more meals to eligible kids across the country.
"When school is out during the summer months, many families struggle to feed their children even one nutritious meal a day," said Vilsack. "Government cannot address this challenge alone, which is why, this week, we join our valued partners to raise awareness about the nutrition gap low-income children face when schools close for the summer. Working together, we can make sure children have access to nutritious food year-round."
National Summer Food Service Program week is a national push to promote USDA's Summer Food Service Program (SFSP) and other initiatives across the country to feed more low-income children when school is out. These federally-funded programs are designed to alleviate hunger during the summer months and operate through partnerships between USDA, state agencies and local organizations.
Last year, USDA's summer feeding programs provided 161 million meals, feeding approximately 3.5 million children on a typical summer day. In order to ensure that no child goes hungry this summer, USDA and its partners are redoubling their efforts to reach more eligible low-income children. USDA efforts include:
Issuing a national call to action for schools, communities and faith-based organizations across the country to increase the number of SFSP sponsors and feeding sites to ensure that no child goes hungry when school is out.
Providing intensive technical assistance to expand the reach of the program in five states with high levels of rural and urban food insecurity and/or reduced program participation, including Arkansas, California, Colorado, Rhode Island and Virginia. Arkansas, Colorado and Virginia are also states targeted by USDA's StrikeForce, an initiative designed to improve the quality of life and boost economic growth in high poverty rural areas.
Working with individuals, schools and community organizations to help connect families to summer meals. Summer feeding sites are located in many low-income communities across the country. To find sites in a particular area, call 1-866-3-Hungry or 1-877-8-Hambre (Spanish) or visit the National Hunger Clearinghouse resource directory.
"USDA's summer feeding initiative supports programs that keep children active and engaged when school is out, reducing learning loss that often occurs during the summer months," said Vilsack. "We must do all we can to ensure that children get nutritious food year-round, so that they are ready to learn during the school year and have a greater chance to succeed."
USDA continues working with First Lady Michelle Obama on the Let's Move! initiative, which is helping to promote healthy eating and physical activity while supporting the health of American families. Through the combined efforts of USDA and its partners, the United States is beginning to see progress and improvements in the health of our Nation's children.
USDA's Food and Nutrition Service oversees the administration of 15 nutrition assistance programs, including the Summer Food Service Program and other child nutrition programs, that touch the lives of one in four Americans over the course of a year. These programs work in concert to form a national safety net against hunger. Visit www.fns.usda.gov for information about FNS and nutrition assistance programs.
USDA has made a concerted effort to deliver results for the American people, even as USDA implements sequestration -- the across-the-board budget reductions mandated under terms of the Budget Control Act. USDA has already undertaken historic efforts since 2009 to save more than $828 million in taxpayer funds through targeted, common-sense budget reductions. These reductions have put USDA in a better position to carry out its mission, while implementing sequester budget reductions in a fair manner that causes as little disruption as possible.