Ah, summertime. Long days filled with friends, freedom, fun—and for millions of children in America, hunger.
Here are the facts: During the school year, more than 21 million children in need have access to meals provided through schools. But only a fraction of these children—3.5 million—participate in free meal programs during the summer. That leaves around 18 million kids who are missing out on nutritious meals.
These are the children Sodexo has been working to serve for nearly two decades through our Feeding Our Future® program. And, beyond Sodexo’s Feeding Our Future® program, our accounts provide meals for the USDA Summer Food Service Program, serving thousands of free summer meals to hungry children to help meet their nutritional needs during the summer months.This year USDA has set an aggressive goal of serving an additional 10 million meals this summer for a total of 171 million free meals.
The USDA shares Sodexo’s goal of ensuring that no child goes hungry. And both organizations recognize that by combining our skills, reach, and resources, we can amplify our impact. This partnership is one of the most effective ways for Sodexo to succeed at #FeedingtheMovement and helping as many children as we can.
The USDA Summer Food Service Program is an “open feeding program,” meaning that any child age 18 or younger can simply show up to a designated site, receive a free summer meal and participate in activities. In our role as the USDA’s partner, we help raise awareness in communities nationwide about locations where children can receive free summer meals. One way we do this is to work alongside the USDA to develop youth activities that draw interest and participation. We also help provide nutrition education and awareness opportunities.
Last month, I joined with USDA Under Secretary for Food, Nutrition, and Consumer Services, Kevin Concannon on a media tour to help kick off the USDA’s Summer Food Service Program and promote public awareness of local feeding opportunities. Here’s how he explains the program and our partnership:
“For families who rely on free and reduced school meals, it’s sometimes stressful to make ends meet in the summer. Last year, our Summer Food Service Program served 161 million free meals to children and teens while schools were closed, and we couldn’t do it without help from our public-private partnerships.”
You can help spread the word about free summer meals for children. To find a nearby site serving free nutritious meals, call 1-866-3-HUNGRY or 1-877-8-HAMBRE (for Spanish speakers), or visit NoKidHungry.org/SummerMeals.
Stephen Dunmore serves as president for the Schools segment at Sodexo, overseeing the work of teams at nearly 500 K–12 partner organizations nationwide. He also serves on the Board of Sodexo Foundation.