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Summer Food Program Addresses Growing Need for Kids’ Meals

For release: Immediate    June 2, 2011
Contact: Julie Henry, 919-707-5053

RALEIGH – The increasing number of North Carolina children who qualify for free or reduced price school meals may be eligible for free meals during the summer. The federally-funded Summer Food Service Program (SFSP) offers nutritious meals and snacks for children 18 and under across the state through approved summer care sponsors.

During the 2010-2011 school year, more than 813,000 children received free or reduced price meals at public schools and military base schools, up from an estimated 790,000 children the prior year and 704,000 in 2008-2009.

“We know that children from low-income families may be hungry when school meals aren’t available, especially during these difficult economic times,” said Cynthia Ervin, coordinator of the SFSP through the North Carolina Division of Public Health. “The Summer Food Service Program ensures that children receive complete, wholesome meals, and offers parents help in stretching their food dollars during the summer months.”

Last year, with the support of 113 sponsoring organizations, the Summer Food Program served an average of 66,533 children each day. Free meals are provided at schools, local government agencies, private non-profit organizations, parks, swimming pools, vacation Bible schools and low-income housing complexes that have been approved as SFSP sites. Participating organizations receive federal funds from the U.S. Department of Agriculture to provide meals to complement the recreational and educational programs they already offer.

To qualify, a site must either be located in a low-income area where 50 percent or more of the children in the area are eligible for free or reduced-price school meals, or it must serve primarily low-income children, at least half of whom are eligible for free or reduced-price school meals.

Children may go to any site to receive free meals. No registration is required and there is no cost to children or families. As of the end of May, more than 160 sites in 35 counties had been approved to participate. More counties are being added as sponsors sign up and are approved.

For an up-to-date list of Summer Food Service Program sites and for more information on participating as a provider, visit the N.C. Nutrition Services web site at www.nutritionnc.com or call the N.C. CARE-LINE at 1-800-662-7030 (TTY: 1-877-452-2514). The list is updated every Friday.