WASHINGTON, D.C.—U.S. Sen. Sherrod Brown (D-OH) today announced that more than $329,725 in grants from the U.S. Department of Agriculture has been awarded to help improve nutrition programs for children in the summer months in six sites across Ohio.  The funds, awarded to the Ohio Department of Education (ODE), are aimed at improving the Summer Food Service Program (SFSP).  The SFSP, which provides nutritious meals to low-income children during the summer, is administered by ODE and run locally by approved sponsors that include school districts, nonprofit organizations, and local government agencies.

“While more than 700,000 Ohio children are eligible to receive free or reduced priced meals at their school, only 10 percent of these children receive this assistance during the summer months,” Brown said. “While many students turn to the Summer Food Service Program for nutrition assistance during the summer months, many children still go hungry while food service sites close on the weekend. The ‘backpack’ pilot is designed to meet the nutritional needs of children when other resources are not available.”

Six organizations will implement a “Food Backpack Demonstration” to test an innovative system that ensures children receive healthy food on weekends and other days when meals are not available through SFSP.  Program participants will have access to backpacks at SFSP locations that contain three days worth of shelf-stable food and drinks as well as preparation instructions and menu serving suggestions.  According Feeding America, the “BackPack” concept was  developed after a school nurse asked for help because hungry students were coming to the nurse’s office with stomachaches and dizziness. The local food bank began to provide the school children with groceries in non-descript backpacks to carry home.

In January, Brown helped convene a statewide summit in Columbus to discuss childhood hunger and the need for greater utilization of SFSP by Ohio schoolchildren.

As Chairman of the Senate Subcommittee on Hunger, Nutrition, and Family Farms, he 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 the bill passed by the House and the Senate.

The following organizations were selected to operate food backpack demonstration projects in Ohio:

Organization County
Andrews House, Inc. Delaware      
Community Action Organization of Scioto County              

Hamilton Living Water Ministry, Inc.

Whole Again International Hamilton
Hocking Athens Perry Community Action Agency          
Ashtabula County Children Services Ashtabula