Summer Isn’t Fun Without Food
Sanjita looks forward to visiting her local summer meals site once school is out to help feed her two young sons and nephews. Last summer, she visited the summer meal program facilitated by The Sheridan Story in Roseville, Minn., with the help of a grant from Second Harvest Heartland, nearly every weekend it was open.
“Sometimes we have no money to pay for food because it’s so expensive,” she said. “This is very nice to have here. I like coming here and my kids like the food.”
The Roseville meal site is one of hundreds open over the summer thanks to the Summer Food Service Program, or SFSP, a Federal nutrition program that provides healthy meals and snacks to youth across Minnesota. Nearly 320,000 Minnesota students are enrolled in the Free and Reduced Meal program, and many rely on the meals they receive in school as their primary source of nutrition. When summer rolls around, these students lose access to that food.
Not only does this stretch already threadbare family budgets, but the lack of nutritious food for a growing child has myriad negative consequences. According to the American Academy of Pediatrics, deficiencies of key micronutrients in early childhood can lead to delays in attention and motor development, poor short-term memory and lower IQ scores. School-aged children can face immediate and lifelong educational, health, and behavioral problems as a result of hunger. Hunger makes it difficult for students to retain their academic accomplishments, contributing to the academic achievement gap. Distributing free meals through the SFSP helps to fill the gap.
When SFSP meal sites are established, any young person 18 and under can enjoy a free meal or snack. Last summer, more than 200 SFSP sponsors served 3.2 million meals at nearly 1,000 meal sites throughout Minnesota. While specific meal site schedules vary, many meal sites are open from early-mid June to late August.
While this is a great start, there’s still a lot of opportunity to grow SFSP. Only about 17 percent of students enrolled in the Free and Reduced Meals program are accessing Free Summer Meals (about 55,000), which means that nearly 265,000 are NOT accessing these meals.
Through many strong partnerships with organizations like Minneapolis Public Schools and Metro Transit, our Child Hunger team is determined to continue to make summer meals more accessible– by helping to add even more meal sites, by improving existing sites through investment and technical support, and by raising awareness of the program to the public and community organizations. Second Harvest continues to grow partnerships with a variety of organizations, from meal providers to community stakeholders, to ensure that more youth can access SFSP.
Find a Meal Distribution Site Near You