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Reducing childhood hunger: Oregon seeks more schools, non-profits, tribes to operate summer meal programs

Students eat lunch.
Umatilla School District
Last summer, Summer Food Service Program sponsors around the state served 1.2 million meals to hungry children and teens. Here, Umatilla students enjoy a summer meal together.

The Oregon Department of Education (ODE) is looking to expand its Summer Food Service Program. Grant funds of up to $20,000 dollars are available for organizations to start summer meal sites.

The program provides a nutritious breakfast and lunch to kids on days when school is not in session. Last summer, SFSP sponsors around the state served 1.2 million meals to hungry children and teens.

And the need is even greater. Summer Meals Outreach Coordinator Cathy Broch explained.

"We know that this number of meals that are served in the summer pales in comparison to the amount of kids who participate in [free/reduced] school meals during the school year. So- we want to increase the number that are served during the summer to reduce that gap.”

ODE is seeking more schools, non-profits, faith-based organizations and tribes to become a Summer Food Service sponsor. As an incentive, start-up grant funds are available through ODE. The deadline to submit an eligibility assessment is March 1.

Summer Meals sites must be located in an area where at least 50% of students qualify for free or reduced-price meals. Qualified organizations must enter into an agreement with ODE to operate the USDA SFSP and are then “reimbursed for serving healthy meals and snacks to children at approved sites,” Broch said.

Sites are places in the community where children receive meals in a safe and supervised environment. Sites may be located in a variety of settings, including schools, parks, community centers, health clinics, hospitals, libraries, migrant centers, apartment complexes and faith-based locations. Sponsors may be approved to operate and/or have oversight of multiple sites.

Starting in 2023, some Summer Meals sponsors in rural areas have been approved to distribute “Grab and Go” meals as well as offering a meal delivery model.

Currently, 89 school districts operate SFSP in Oregon and another 14 school districts operate the “Seamless Summer Option,” which is an extension of the school lunch program.

For questions about grants and more information about how to become a Summer Food Service Program sponsor, contact: ode.communitynutrition@ode.oregon.gov

Tiffany joined the KLCC News team in 2007. She studied journalism at the University of Missouri-Columbia and worked in a variety of media including television, technical writing, photography and daily print news before moving to the Pacific Northwest.
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