Summer meal sites wanted
This summer, the Ohio Department of Education wants to increase participation in summer meal programs and is actively seeking local nonprofit agencies to participate as sponsors or sites by providing free meals to children.
Since 2014, Ohio has increased its participation in the Summer Food Service Program by 10 percent; still, the number of families with food insecurity continues to rise.
According to a report released by Feeding America in June called Map the Meal Gap, 14.3 percent or one in seven people in Washington County is food insecure. That means there are 8,800 hungry Washington County residents, including children, and 27 percent are above the income guidelines to qualify for SNAP or other nutrition programs.
“The need for healthy meals doesn’t stop when school breaks for the summer,” said Paolo DeMaria, superintendent of public instruction for the Ohio Department of Education. “The Summer Food Service Program helps provide children with nourishment to make sure summer can be a time for continued learning and fun. Instead of worrying about where their next meals will come from, our students can enjoy activities like reading, sports, playing outdoors and the growing that happens during the summer months.”
The Summer Food Service Program ensures that children ages 1 to 18 continue to receive nutritious meals during the summer break from school, when they do not have access to school breakfast or lunch. Children with disabilities and approved individualized education programs may participate through age 21. According to the Ohio Department of Education, sponsoring organizations receive reimbursement to cover the costs of providing nutritious meals and snacks to children in eligible areas. Nonprofit organizations offering summer activities for children living in low-income areas also are encouraged to apply.
In the past, organizations like the Ely Chapman Education Foundation, Boys and Girls Club of Washington County, the Betsey Mills Club, Washington-Morgan Community Action and the City of Marietta have offered summer food programs.
“Usually we do hear from them by now about reapplying so it was on my list of things to do today, to start the application,” said Alice Chapman, founder and director of Ely Chapman, on Monday.
The program typically starts in June, depending on when school gets out due to makeup days. Chapman said that other nonprofits picking up some of the slack would be very helpful.
“There are kids who are not getting to us for some reason or another,” she said. “But the requirements are really very strict and I think that’s why a lot of nonprofits don’t do it.”
Ely Chapman takes children from the Marietta Family YMCA, for example, because the Y is not equipped with the proper kitchen.
Two new sites in Washington and Morgan counties were very successful last year, according to Carrie McNamee, director of Senior and Community Services at Community Action.
“Both of our new sites (in Chesterhill and Lower Salem) did really, really well last year,” she said. “The need is really great but we’ve had a lot of community support.”
The application period is under way now through June, though McNamee said Community Action likes to get a jump on the process.
“The application process is not hard, the hard part is the reimbursement rate is so low, you have to work around that and a church or something that might want to get involved, you would have to rely a lot on volunteers,” she said.
Community Action relies on the AmeriCorps VISTA program and has also been aided financially by the Sisters Health Foundation.
“I support the idea of nonprofits getting involved. There are areas that are underserved, such as Lowell and Macksburg. Even in Marietta, there are enough kids that there can be multiple programs,” McNamee said.
Miss Peggy’s House day care center in Belpre has offered the summer feeding program in the past and, according to administrator Toni Teeters, they will apply once again this year.
“We average about 75 to 100 kids per day in the summer,” she said. “Belpre Elementary has at least 50 percent of students on free and reduced lunch so that qualifies us to be able to offer this.”
Miss Peggy’s House partners with Washington County Job & Family Services to employ youth to assist with the program.
“It is a big help to us and gives them job skills,” Teeters said. “I would definitely encourage other nonprofits to get involved.”
A potential sponsor survey for interested nonprofits is available on the Ohio Department of Education’s website at education.ohio.gov.
How to become a sponsor organization
A sponsoring organization must be:
¯ A public or nonprofit private school;
¯ A public or nonprofit private residential summer camp;
¯ A unit of local, municipal, county or state government;
¯ A public or nonprofit college or university; or
¯ A private nonprofit organization.
The Summer Food Service Program is funded by the U.S. Department of Agriculture and administered by the Ohio Department of Education.
Any organization interested in becoming a sponsor or site should complete the potential sponsor survey no later than March 2. Visit the Ohio Department of Education website at education.ohio.gov.
Source: Ohio Department of Education.