Fruitful Summer Program - Capital Area Food Bank
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Fruitful Summer Program

By Michael G. Waddle March 18, 2013

When I think of summer, I think of food – watermelon, corn on the cob and hamburgers sizzling on the grill.
Unfortunately, not everyone gets to enjoy these pleasures. Some people can’t cook these seasonal delights because they’re too busy making sure they have food in the first place. And often times these are families with children.
School meals are a vital resource to our children, especially those at risk of hunger. In 2011, 21 million children in our country received free or reduced-price breakfast and/or lunch at school. Many families depend on this resource as it helps offset the costs of raising children.
But what happens when school is out for the summer? Do 21 million children no longer need to eat?
Of course they need to eat, but it’s much harder to reach them.
The USDA provides the Summer Food Service Program through a network of local state sponsors, however, only 2.27 million children participated in the program in 2011 – that’s only 10 percent of the number of children fed during the school months.
This doesn’t make sense to me. Are children no longer hungry over the summer? Do their parents no longer need assistance?
I doubt it.
It’s tough for SFSP to reach kids during the summer as they like to play, hang, run, laugh and not have to follow a schedule. So the Capital Area Food Bank is working to ensure that more children participate in the summer food program.
In the summer of 2012, the Capital Area Food Bank became an SFSP sponsor in Prince George’s County, MD for the first time in a decade.
To make SFSP a success, we partnered with PG Parks and Recreation’s Safe Summer program, which provides teens a safe space to play basketball, create arts and crafts, and enjoy recreational activities. Some community centers stay open as late as midnight.
I am often surprised when I visit the sites. While the staff is always excited to offer the meals to kids, and the kids are always happy to get healthy choices, they more often than not go straight for the fresh fruit. I’ll be honest, kids are picky eaters and they don’t always like everything the food bank provides. They eat what they like best, and on a hot summer day, surprisingly it’s fruit!
Before we used SFSP, we served 142 children daily during the summer, and now we reach 448 children a day. Three times as many – and counting. The trick now is to let families know this service is available, and making sure they know where the food is offered.
When summer rolls around, you can easily locate an SFSP site. Just visit MD Summer Meals for MD sites and DC Hunger Solutions for D.C. sites. There will be more resources available closer to summer, just keep checking in with us.
If you’re interested in learning more about the program, email or call 202-644-9844.