SACRAMENTO — State Superintendent of Public Instruction Tony Thurmond recently announced that applications are available for the Summer Food Service Program (SFSP) and Seamless Summer Option (SSO), both federally funded, state-administered programs that serve free meals to children eighteen and younger when school is out of session. During the school closures, these programs have also played a pivotal role in assisting districts with meal service for students throughout the state.
“The pandemic has put an additional strain on those families who were already struggling with basic needs,” said Thurmond. “Food insecurity is a real issue for our students who are living in economically disadvantaged communities. It is difficult for a child to focus on reading or solving a math problem when they are hungry. Having programs in communities where children can easily access nutritious meals during the summer months can help students thrive and be ready to learn in the fall.”
In its quest to ensure that there were enough sites to serve kids, in 2020, the California Department of Education (CDE) worked closely with the USDA to secure COVID-19 related waivers that removed certain participant eligibility requirements that allowed all students to receive meals.
In 2019, during the months of June and July, the Summer Meals Programs served close to 34 million meals throughout the state. In 2020 during that same period, the programs served close to 75 million meals.
“We could not have met the demands brought on by the COVID crisis if not for our summer meal sponsors,” said Thurmond. “The ability to feed the most vulnerable kids throughout the state, in multiple locations, would not be possible if organizations did not apply to participate as sponsors.”
Summer meal sites are located in communities where at least 50 percent of the children qualify for free or reduced-price school meals. All meals meet the U.S. Department of Agriculture nutrition requirements, and no paperwork or personal information is required for children to participate.
Organizations eligible to participate in Summer Meal Programs include schools, camps, nonprofits, tribal governments, and government agencies. Applications are due by Saturday, May 15, 2021.
For more information about Summer Meal Programs, visit the CDE Summer Meal Programs web page. If your agency is interested in becoming a sponsor or hosting a meal site, contact the Summer Meals Unit at 1-800-952-5609 or SFSP@cde.ca.gov. If your organization is not able to provide meal services, please consider promoting Summer Meal Sites in your community. You can locate meal sites on the CDE Summer Meal Service Site web page.
The California Department of Education is a state agency led by State Superintendent of Public Instruction Tony Thurmond. For more information, visit the California Department of Education’s website.