(WCSC) - The South Carolina Department of Education's Office of Health and Nutrition is offering an excellent opportunity for local government agencies, school districts, faith-based and private nonprofit organizations to provide summer meals to children by becoming a sponsor or a summer site for the Summer Food Service Program.
State Superintendent of Education Molly M. Spearman issued the following statement calling on community leaders to join the agency in promoting the Summer Food Service Program.
"Last summer, we provided four million meals to students in need.As we prepare for this summer's program, we are looking for organizations to partner with us to serve as sponsors and new sites to help serve students. We are excited about the possibility of expanding collaboration opportunities as we get ready for another successful summer for our students," said Spearman.
The program is funded by the United States Department of Agriculture (USDA) and administered by the South Carolina Department of Education to serve healthy meals to children during the summer months when school is not in session.
"During the summer months, many children are at risk for hunger," said Dr. Juanita Bowens-Seabrook, Director of the Office of Health and Nutrition. "Lack of nutrition during these months may set up a cycle for poor performance once school begins and make children more prone to illnesses and other health issues."
The program, previously administered by the state's Department of Social Services, is designed to fill the nutrition gap and make sure children get the nutritious meals they need.
67 sponsors and 1,620 sites serving healthy meals to students statewide last year, but there is still work to be done.
"Although there was a slight increase in the number of meals served last year, there are still far too many children still not being reached," said Dr. Bowens-Seabrook. "To accomplish this, we need more eligible organizations willing to serve as sponsors or sites in their communities."
Sponsors can operate the program and feed students at various sites such as schools, churches, recreation centers, hospital cafeterias, farmer's markets, community and migrant centers, and other areas in the local community.
Sponsors receive training and support relating to the application process; setting up and operating a successful program; and nutrition education. They also receive technical assistance while the program is operating.
To learn more, the South Carolina Department of Education is hosting two informational meetings on Thursday, February 18 and March 10 at the South Carolina State Farmers Market Center in West Columbia from 9:00 a.m. to 1:00 p.m.