The State Department of Agriculture is hoping to get more nutritious meals into the mouths of children who need them through their Summer Food Service Program.

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The program provides children who qualify for free or reduced lunch during the school year with a nutritious meal during the summer season when school isn’t session.

However, even though the Department of Agriculture notes there is a great need statewide for the program, historically the program has only served 20% of those who qualified.

Rose Tricario, Director of Food and Nutrition for the State Department of Agriculture says their goal is two-fold, get the message about the program out and create more available food distribution sites.

The meals are distributed by sponsors, which Tricario says are public or private non profit school authorities, units of municipal, county, or state government, public or private non profit organizations, residential summer camps, or national youth sports programs.

“This federally funded program reimburses participating organizations for meal services to children who live in areas where fifty percent of the children qualify for free or reduced priced meals under the national school lunch program,” says Tricario.

Federal regulations governing the SFSP do not permit “for profit/private” businesses to provide the meals, however Tricario notes private businesses wanting to help can also play a role in supporting the program.

“They can go to the local sites and perhaps fund giveaways for the children, they can fund the ads to promote the program or recruit sites for sponsorship.”

Non profit organizations wishing to be sponsors or for profits interested in helping in other ways can contact the Summer Food Service Program at (609) 292-4498