Food and Nutrition Service,
A staggering 15.3 million American children live in food insecure households. Right here in our own country, maybe even in your own neighborhood, there are children who have become used to living with the sounds of a growling stomach. These are kids who aren’t lucky enough to be picky eaters; who don’t have the luxury of asking “What’s for dinner tonight?” but instead, ask “Are we having dinner tonight?”
Summer can be a particularly difficult time for these families. Ensuring children have consistent access to nutritious meals is even more challenging when school is out and kids and teens no longer receive free and reduced-price meals through the U.S. Department of Agriculture’s (USDA) National School Lunch Program and School Breakfast Program.
The issue of food insecurity is incredibly complex and the solution, even more so. But we are making great strides in the fight against summer hunger, and one thing is overwhelmingly clear: Coordination and collaboration are key. They say it takes a village to raise a child. I say it takes a village to feed a child.
USDA’s summer meals programs provide balanced meals at no cost to kids and teens. Sites are located across the country in areas with a high population of families who receive free and reduced-price meals. This helps fill the gap for children who rely on school meals throughout the year.
Every step of the process, we rely on partners at the national, state, and local levels. It is only through a strong network of partnerships uniting a wide range of public and private partners toward the common goal of addressing childhood hunger that USDA’s summer meals programs can thrive. Partners serve as sites where children can gather to get a meal; partners serve as sponsors, handling the financial operations of the sites; partners serve as megaphones, helping get the word out to the local community about the availability of these meals; the list goes on and on.
Some of our partners are volunteers who want to help the cause. Others are non-profit associations dedicated to the cause of ending childhood hunger. Others still are socially-responsible companies looking to give back to the community that supports their business. Sodexo, for example, has partnered with USDA as a summer meals sponsor for a number of years, and they also provide thousands of free summer meals through Feeding Our Future®, which is part of their year-round Stop Hunger program that is present in 48 countries.
Through these partnerships, we can leverage the strengths of multiple parties, and as we continue to grow, we are able to combine forces to more effectively and efficiently meet our collective goal. Each type of partner – public, private, local, national – brings different, but valuable tools to the fight against childhood hunger, whether it is the scope of their influence, their knowledge of the local community, or their unique set resources.
On behalf of USDA, I want to express our sincere gratitude to all our summer meals partners. We are humbled by your efforts and grateful for your commitment. Together, we can create a healthier tomorrow!
For more information on USDA’s summer meals, visit the Food and Nutrition Service website.
To Find a Site Near You:
- Visit the Summer Meals Site Finder (in English and Spanish; mobile version available)
- Call 1-866-348-6479 (English) or 1-877-842-6273 (Spanish)
- Text FOOD (English) or COMIDA (Spanish) to 877-877, operated by a USDA partner
Audrey Rowe is the Administrator for the Food and Nutrition Service (FNS) at the U.S. Department of Agriculture (USDA) in Washington, D.C. FNS administers a total of 15 nutrition assistance programs including the National School Lunch Program, the Supplemental Nutrition Assistance Program (SNAP), and the Special Supplemental Nutrition Program for Women, Infants, and Children (WIC) among others, which together comprise America’s nutrition safety net. Rowe has over 20 years of experience in both public and private sector in human services policy development, fiscal management, program design, service delivery and marketing with a particular focus on vulnerable populations, low income women, children and youth.