DES MOINES – The Iowa Department of Education today announced it is seeking sponsors for a federally funded program that provides nutritious meals or snacks to children in low-income areas of the state during the summer months.

The U.S. Department of Agriculture’s Summer Food Service Program (SFSP), administered by the Iowa Department of Education, helps ensure that children ages 18 and younger have access to nutritious meals and snacks during summer break. Persons with mental and physical disabilities who are over age 18 and participate in school programs are also eligible to participate.

The program uses local sponsors and partner organizations to manage summer meal services. Typical sponsors include public or nonpublic schools, public or private non-profit colleges/universities, private non-profit organizations and camps, and local, county, municipal, state or federal agencies. Meals provided as part of the summer meal programs are served at a wide variety of sites, including schools, churches, community centers, parks, libraries, housing complexes or camps. Additionally, sites may be selected to coincide with locations children will be spending their time such as summer enrichment programs, parks and recreation programs, library programming or a site near the local swimming pool, park or splash pad. Sponsors can also offer mobile meal sites to make access easier for families. 
To qualify as a site, the meal service must be either located in a low-income neighborhood where at least 50 percent of the children are eligible for free and reduced-price meals or must serve primarily low-income children and not duplicate services already being provided by another organization. Once a site location is established, all children 18 and under are welcome to participate.

Organizations can also get involved by partnering with existing sponsors to promote site locations and provide activities for children, volunteers, transportation assistance and more.

In addition, a new statewide grant program will soon be available to support program expansion efforts and increase the number of summer meal sites so more students have access to nutritious meals during the summer. The new grant opportunity, in conjunction with the federal reimbursement, will help current sponsors to expand their operation into areas currently underserved by the program as well as incentivize eligible but not yet participating school districts and other qualified organizations to launch into new communities. More information about this new grant opportunity will be shared in the coming weeks.

Organizations interested in learning how to get involved are invited to visit the Department’s Summer Food Service Program webpage, visit the USDA Summer Food Service Program webpage, participate in an informational webinar on Feb. 20 at 2 p.m. or contact Stephanie Dross at 515-281-4760 or stephanie.dross@iowa.gov.

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