Federal funds available for summer meals for children and teens

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The Maryland State Department of Education has announced that federal funds are available to assist public and private nonprofit organizations in serving free, nutritious meals to children and teens this summer through the Summer Food Service Program (SFSP), a U. S. Department of Agriculture program.

More than 400,000 Maryland children are eligible for free or reduced-price school meals, but may not have access to nutritious meals during the summer when schools are closed. For these families, food insecurity increases during the summer months. The SFSP plays a vital role in reducing childhood hunger along with providing healthful meals.

“While Maryland has made progress to expand access and increase participation in the summer meals program, more communities need to become involved in providing a meal service so children have access to meals in the summer months and return to school ready to learn,” said Dr. Jack Smith, Interim State Superintendent of Schools. “Particularly effective is pairing nutritious summer meals with engaging enrichment and recreational programs to draw children to the meal sites.”

The SFSP provides reimbursement to organizations for meals and snacks served to children in areas where at least 50 percent of the children qualify for free or reduced-price meals under the National School Lunch Program, or when 50 percent of the children enrolled in a program qualify for free or reduced-price meals. Most organizations may be reimbursed for up to two meals or snacks per child per day. Camps and migrant programs may be reimbursed for up to three meals per child each day. Meals and snacks must meet federal nutrition standards.

The Program is open to children and teens age 18 and under and to individuals over 18 who are mentally or physically disabled. Interested organizations should contact MSDE at 410-767-0214. The deadline for applications is May 31, 2016. For information about the SFSP, visit www.eatsmartmaryland.org.