When school is out for the summer, so is lunch for many young children in Delaware. With the end of the school year already here and summer break beginning, the Food Bank of Delaware is encouraging community partners to help serve free meals to children in need through the Summer Food Service Program (SFSP). Beginning on June 13, the Food Bank, with help from thousands of volunteers, has already started to prepare and distribute free meals to qualified sites throughout the state. Sites include faith-based organizations, summer camps, sports camps and other centers where children congregate during the summer months.
“Our volunteers are so important to us at the Food Bank of Delaware, and obviously to children throughout Kent and Sussex counties,” said Chad Robinson, Milford branch director. “For children in need, these meals are essential to their health and success.”
Robinson also acknowledges that with children at home during the summer months, food budgets increase in households as families now need to provide additional meals. Through the Summer Food Service Program families can utilize the free meal program freeing up money in their budget for other household budget items.
“The program is important to kids and families because it helps to fill an important void. When school is not in session, children do not have access to nutritious school meals,” said Robinson. “Many families report increased food budgets during the summer months because kids must eat more meals at home.”
According to the Food Bank of Delaware, 54% of low-income families whose children participate in free or reduced-price lunch programs find it hard to make ends meet during the summer, and 43% sometimes find themselves without enough food during the summer months. Additionally, 62% of low-income families report spending an average of $316 more per month on food during the summer months. During past years of the SFSP program, the Food Bank of Delaware was able to provide service to 243,812 children statewide, 80,861of which were children located in Sussex County.
This year, the Food Bank is encouraging neighborhoods to get involved to help serve meals in their communities throughout the state of Delaware. To host a neighborhood program, an adult must contact the food bank for an application to determine eligibility, attend a training session and submit weekly paperwork.To qualify for free meals, sites must operate in low-income areas where at least half of the children, up to 18 years of age, are eligible for the free or reduced-price lunch program. There are no fees associated with the program, and meals are available seven days a week.
Free meals are provided through the Summer Food Service Program as SFSP is a federally-funded program operated nationally by the U.S. Department of Agriculture and locally by the Delaware Department of Education. This summer, the Food Bank of Delaware expects to deliver more than 5,000 meals daily across the state to children during the 10-week program. Milford residents, organizations and businesses can get involved by volunteering at the Milford Branch to help pack meals and beverages in coolers for the program. To volunteer for the program, no experience is necessary but volunteers should be able to stand for extended periods of time. Shifts are operated throughout the day Monday through Friday and some occasional weeknights and weekends. Interested parties are encouraged to contact the Milford branch by phone at 302-424-3301 or by email at firstname.lastname@example.org.