By Richard G. Lugar
United States Senator
During the school year, a significant portion of students’ nutritional needs are met through the federal school lunch program. However, hunger does not stop simply because school recesses during the summer months. To help meet students’ nutritional needs during the summer vacation gap, I would like to encourage your organization to consider becoming involved in the Summer Food Service Program (SFSP).
The SFSP is a federally funded program operated by the U.S. Department of Agriculture and administered by the State of Indiana. Local organizations that sponsor the program provide nutritious meals to eligible children and are reimbursed for their efforts. Potential sponsors include schools, summer camps, community centers, and other organizations that offer exercise, education, or guidance to children.
While this program has been in existence for more than four decades, I proposed significant improvements after finding low participation at a food service site in New Albany, Indiana. I learned from Indiana providers that governmental red tape discouraged many providers from participating. As a result, I authored a pilot program in 1999 that sought to streamline the program and remove the red tape. I am pleased that this program has now been made permanent and has increased the participation of Hoosier children by 80 percent.
With the help of more than 234 sponsors last year, the SFSP provided 1.74 million free meals and snacks over the summer to more than 45,000 low-income Hoosier children aged 18 and under. Unfortunately, approximately 500,000 children remain eligible but are not served.
The Indiana Department of Education is currently recruiting new program sites and will be hosting informational workshops for new and returning sponsors. For additional information, please visit: www.doe.in.gov/food/summer/welcome.html or contact Tina Skinner or Marcia Yurczyk at the Indiana Department of Education at (317) 232-0858 or (317) 232-0852. You may also contact them via email at firstname.lastname@example.org or email@example.com.
There are many innovative health and wellness programs at schools, farms, and community organizations across our state. We must work together at the federal, state, local, and individual levels to foster and support initiatives that promote individual and community health and wellness so that each child has a better chance to reach his or her potential.