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Feeding Hungry Kids Healthy Food This Summer

Almost 30 percent of Texas families report difficulty affording food. Compared to the rest of the states, Texas and Mississippi have the highest rate of child food insecurity according to a report by Feeding America. Food insecurity can be defined as not knowing where your next meal will come from. At the same time, Texan children face another growing crisis of obesity. The Center for Public Policy Priorities has found that obesity rates have doubled among children and tripled among adolescents the past 20 years. In addition, Feeding America notes that roughly 33 percent  of children (10-17) in Texas are overweight or obese.

The Summer Food Service Program (SFSP) supported by the Texas Department of Agriculture and the U.S. Department of Agriculture is one way get resources to address these issues and help children lead a healthier lifestyle. Children in underserved communities are most at risk during the summer months for both obesity and childhood food insecurity.

By participating in a local summer feeding program, you and your congregation can help provide healthy food at this critical time when children are most vulnerable. An effective summer food program not only provides nutritious meals, but it can also teach children about proper nutrition, encourage outdoor play, and provide important food skills such as growing and healthy food preparations.

Summer food programs are an opportunity to provide nutritious meals to children who need it most during the summer. They not only addresses the related issues of hunger and obesity, but also can provide safe access to nature and outdoor recreational opportunities. By participating in a summer feeding program, congregations and community organizations play a significant role in promoting healthy communities and securing the health of future generations. To learn more about each of these aspects, download the Summer Food Service Program Toolkit or learn more about levels of involvement.

Hunger, or more accurately inadequate nutrition, is one of the most severe roadblocks to the learning process. Children suffering from hunger and food insecurity are especially at risk of not performing to the best of their potential in school. Hunger also prevents children from maintaining a healthy lifestyle as well—making them more prone to illness and other health issues.  Texas children also face one of the nation’s highest rates of obesity. While providing food is necessary, it is important to provide the right types of healthy foods.

Become a Sponsor

Becoming a sponsor requires the highest level of commitment. Sponsoring means acting as the organizer, or the involved administrator for SFSP sites—ensuring the success of the SFSP in your community. If you currently have a well-organized feeding program, soup kitchen or pantry that provides meals, you may be an ideal candidate. Sponsors should be able to provide a capable staff, managerial skills, and food service abilities. As a sponsor, you will attend TDA’s training; locate eligible sites; hire, train, and supervise staff; arrange for meals to be prepared or delivered and monitor your sites. Find out how to become a sponsor by clicking here.

Become a Site

Only about 12% of the children eligible for the benefits of the summer food program actually receive food. The primary reason? Not enough feeding sites. Your congregation can be especially helpful in this category since churches or faith-based facilities are often recognizable locations in a community. Organizations that are not able to sponsor because of financial or other reasons can still actively participate in the summer food program by becoming a feeding site. It is not necessary to commit to providing summer food access every day. However, once a schedule is determined, reliable participation and commitment is necessary. You can coordinate site participation with your other youth outreach programs. Find out how to become a feeding site by clicking here.

Volunteer

The most immediate goal of the SFSP is to provide nutritious meals to children in high-need areas when school is out for the summer months. This takes volunteers - and lots of them - especially in July and August. By increasing the number of volunteers and creating a summer-long effort, Texas can begin to tackle the more difficult issues of food scarcity and obesity. Find volunteer opportunities or learn more what volunteers do by clicking here.

Support your Local Food Bank

The Texas Food Bank Network and food pantries are integral components of the Summer Food Service Program. Congregations can work with local food banks to increase donations of healthy food for the SFSP, by offering their location as a site, through outreach assistance, or by providing volunteers to create summer programs and activities for youth.  Learn more about how to support your local food bank by clicking here.

Get Kids Active!

Help make the summer feeding program exciting and inviting by providing youth with fun, outdoor activities. Leading community gardening efforts, organizing tours of local farms or farmers markets, partnering with a local park or Texas Parks and Wildlife to lead nature-based activities, or organizing physical activities and outside games are just a few ideas for how your congregation can help. Learn more about how to create opportunities for children to connect with nature by clicking here.

Get your Toolkit!

The U.S. Department of Agriculture’s Summer Food Service Program provides funding for local organizations to offer nutritious meals and healthy activity for children during the summer months.

The new toolkit "Feeding Texas Kids with the Summer Food Service Program" gives you step-by-step information on the many different ways you can get involved with SFSP.

ORDER THE TOOLKIT

DOWNLOAD THE TOOLKIT