How do we assure that low-income kids have access to nutritional meals during the summer months? This is the question that the Passaic County Food Policy Council considered at our Summer Meals Summit on January 18. The summit was convened by the Passaic County Food Policy Council in partnership with United Way of Passaic County, Paterson Task Force, New Jersey Anti-Hunger Coalition and the NJ Department of Agriculture. Approximately 60 community leaders came to learn how they can get involved and help feed more children this summer.
The Summer Food Service Program (SFSP) data is staggering! Although Paterson and Passaic County rank number one in providing school breakfasts, we are missing the mark when it comes to summer meals and too many kids are going hungry. The good news is that Paterson Public Schools Food Services Department is willing to be a sponsor for any site in Paterson!
Almost any organized group can be a SFSP site and meals can be served anywhere kids gather, including parks and recreation spaces. Site hosts or managers must attend trainings, and will be required to receive and serve meals, keep records of meals served, store food appropriately and keep the site clean and sanitary.
The USDA’s Summer Food Service Program provides for two meals per day (including weekends and evening meals) during the summer months. That translates to approximately $20.6 million that is potentially available to Passaic County for meals this summer. In 2016, our county only used $894,000. We desperately need more sites and fortunately, a number of the Summer Meals Summit participants expressed an interest.
The Paterson Education Fund is a strong leader in our coalition, the Passaic County Food Council, and in its Child Nutrition Advocacy Working Group, which is planning a more specialized training for organizations interested in becoming summer feeding sites. Our coalition will work to promote all of the summer feeding sites to ensure that more families can access nutritious meals this summer.
For more information about hosting a summer feeding site in Paterson, or about the Passaic Food Policy Council’s work to build a healthier Paterson, contact the council on Facebook, or email the Project Director Mary Celis at firstname.lastname@example.org.