WASHINGTON, D.C. — More than 800,000 needy children in Ohio receive critical nutrition assistance during the school year, but many go hungry in the summer months. With schools closing for the summer, U.S. Sen. Sherrod Brown (D-OH) is alerting Ohioans to resources available through the Summer Food Service Program (SFSP), a federal nutrition program run by the U.S. Department of Agriculture (USDA) which currently operates at more than 1,200 sites across 79 Ohio counties.
“For most Ohio children, the school year is ending and summer has begun. This year, more than 800,000 children qualified and utilized free or reduced-price school lunches this past year. That’s hundreds of thousands of Ohio students that might not have access to a nutritious meal at home—or when school cafeterias close for the summer. That’s where the Summer Food Service Program steps in,” Brown said. “With more than 1,200 feeding sites and counting in Ohio, summer break doesn’t have to mean a break from good nutrition. But right now, too many Ohio families remain unaware about this critical program. Public awareness is vital to ensure that the end of the school year doesn’t mean an end to hunger.”
Brown released a county-by-county report on the summer feeding sites in Ohio along with a list of the nine counties in Ohio that currently have no program sites. The list Brown released today contains more than 1,200 sites, and is the most recently available list from the Ohio Department of Education (ODE), which administers the program throughout the state. For the most up-to-date list of program sites, Ohioans should visit the ODE website or call the National Hunger Hotline at 1-866-3-HUNGRY or 1-877-8-HAMBRE.
Lisa Hamler-Fugitt, executive director of the Ohio Association of Foodbanks, joined Brown to discuss the importance of the SFSP, along with Reverend Pam DeFusco who runs a SFSP site at Washington United Church of Christ in Cincinnati. While the official deadline for interested sponsors was May 17th, organizations that are interested in establishing new centers in critically underserved areas may still be able work with the Ohio Department of Education to set up new sites, and should contact ODE as soon as possible. According to the USDA, units of local government, camps, schools, and private nonprofit organizations can sponsor the SFSP.
According to data released by the Ohio Department of Education, which administers the SFSP in Ohio, more than 800,000 Ohio students received free or reduced-price lunches through the National School Lunch Program in the 2012-2013 school year. The National School Lunch Program provides free, nutritious meals to children from families with incomes at or below 130 percent of the poverty level and reduced-price lunches for those between 130 percent and 185 percent of the poverty level. Similarly, the SFSP provides free, nutritious meals and snacks to help children in low-income areas get the nutrition they need throughout the summer months when they are out of school. SFSP is run locally by approved sponsors, including school districts, local government agencies, camps, or private nonprofit organizations.
While serving as Chairman of the Senate Subcommittee on Hunger, Nutrition, and Family Farms, Brown wrote the Hunger-Free Schools Act, which would help reduce paperwork and enroll already-eligible students in childhood nutrition programs through direct certification. Brown’s bill was the centerpiece of the anti-hunger component of a new law enacted in 2010, the Healthy, Hunger-Free Kids Act. During Agriculture Committee consideration of the Healthy, Hunger-Free Kids Act of 2010, Brown successfully passed two amendments to the legislation. One of those amendments, a bipartisan piece of legislation offered with Senator Richard Lugar (R-IN), ensures greater access to summer feeding programs for children.