West Virginia has received high national rankings for feeding children in need during the school day.
But feeding children during the summer is another matter. It’s harder when they aren’t all being driven or bused to school buildings complete with cafeterias and cooks.
The state Department of Education has issued a call for help.
“In West Virginia, 198,435 school children [about 76 percent] depend on free and reduced-price meals at school,” the department said in a recent news release. “Yet only about 18,000 receive the free meals provided by the SFSP. “
SFSP stands for the Summer Food Service Program, and the department is asking nonprofits, county school systems, cities and other organizations to help.
“Feeding sites often include schools, churches, community centers, pools, parks, libraries, housing complexes and summer camps,” the release said.
Christy Day, an education department communications coordinator, said that, “during the academic year, schools provide a stable support system of breakfast, lunch, after school snacks and often supper programs to meet the nutrition needs of our students. In the summer, once school is dismissed, that food/meal infrastructure is gone.”
She said the lack of transportation during the summer is one current obstacle to getting students fed.
“West Virginia currently has 500 feeding sites and is in need of many more,” she said.
State schools Superintendent Steve Paine said in the release that it’s “vitally important that community partners and organizations participate in the Summer Food Service Program to ensure no child goes hungry. Providing consistent, quality nutrition throughout the summer helps children return to the classroom ready to learn and succeed.”
To help this summer, organizations can contact Cybele Boehm or Samantha Reeves with the state’s Office of Child Nutrition by emailing email@example.com or firstname.lastname@example.org or by calling 304-558-3396. Summer meal sites will be announced in June.