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Make Summer Nutrition Programs Win This Year

by School's Out Washington | | Posted under Afterschool and Summer News

By Sukhjit Dhaliwal, Expanded Learning Opportunities Vista

School’s soon out and summer is approaching, however, this poses concern for many working families that struggle to put food on the table during these months. When school lets out, millions of low-income children lose access to school breakfast, lunch, afterschool snacks and meals that they would normally receive during the school year.

Thankfully, there are Summer Nutrition Programs- such as the Summer Food Service Program (SFSP) that are designed to meet the summer nutrition gap by providing meals and snacks to keep children healthy and well-fed.

“Hunger Doesn’t Take a Vacation”, FRAC’s annual report on participation in the Summer Nutrition Programs, revealed that the Summer Nutrition Programs served three million children across the country in July, 2016, compared to the twenty million children who consume school meals through the National School Lunch Program (NSLP). Here in Washington State, only 11 out of 100 children participating in the National School Lunch Program (NSLP) have access to meals during the summertime. Washington ranks 36th out of the 50 states and the District of Columbia in summer meal access.

This is a fair start, but there is much room for Washington State to increase participation in these programs. Many more eligible schools, nonprofits, and local government agencies can and should be participating to eliminate the summer nutrition gap and feed more kids.

The City of Renton’s 19-year strong partnership with Renton School District has been successful in increasing access to summer meal opportunities, showing a 29% increase in summer meals participation from 2016 to 2017. These organizations saw the need in their community, started out small, and has continued to expand by utilizing their resources. Recreation Coordinator, Teresa Nishi from the City of Renton mentions, “It is by far the best program that the city and the school district partners on; there are hungry kids in our community over the summer and we are connecting them to food.”

This year, the City of Renton and Renton School District intends to serve meals at 17 locations, including four mobile sites. One successful approach for them has been to pair summer meals with enrichment activities, so kids can be active, engaged and nourished. “Having enrichment activities there is huge, just serving meals is not enough. We take the program to the kid’s apartment, park, schools, and places frequently visited by families”, says Teresa.  

Some of their successful outreaching strategies include sending flyers home to families and distributing flyers in frequently visited places in the community (grocery stores, parks, health clinics), having volunteers go door-to-door with information hangers, having radio advertisements and a press-release, placing banners and posters at sites to increase visibility, displaying summer-feeding locations on the website and on social media websites, and more.

For those interested in getting involved, join the momentum now to end childhood hunger. Below is a list of resources and tools to learn more about the Summer Food Service (SFSP) program and to locate the nearest summer meals program to you:  

Contact Teresa Nishi, the Recreation Coordinator at the City of Renton, at tnishi@rentonwa.gov for information about their efforts to feed more kids in Renton, Washington.

For general questions about afterschool and summer meals programs in Washington State, contact Sukhjit Dhaliwal with School’s Out Washington at sdhaliwal@schoolsoutwashington.org.


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