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Summer Food Service Program (SFSP)

Best Practices: Program Access and Expansion

Last Published: 09/02/2015

There are over 13 million low-income children who do not have access to summer meals, even though, they depend on the sound nutrition of lunch and breakfast served at school, during most of the year. This section presents ideas on outreach activities that have helped communities expand meal services and participation. 

Green Bay, Wisconsin

The Green Bay Public Schools characterized their successful expansion of the Program by what they called the “Five P’s.” Partnerships—they created and increased the number of key players in the community to promote participation.

They partnered with such groups as the Hunger Task Force Network of Green Bay which includes the Salvation Army, WIC, community clinics, shelters, pantries, local churches and immigration and resettlement services; 21st Century Summer School Programs; The Boys and Girls Club; and, the local  Parks, Recreation and Forestry organizations.

Promotion—utilized attractive fliers sent to each family living within the school attendance areas where feeding sites were located.  Their materials were translated into the appropriate languages for the targeted populations.  Members of the staff attended community meetings, issued press releases and aired multiple live TV spots to generate excitement about the Program.

Pioneering—they were able to expand their program by thinking outside the box.  They applied for and received expansion grants which helped to renovate a former traveling classroom van into a new food service delivery vehicle.  The “Lunch n’ Learn Mobile” as it was called, generated interest in the summer meals, provided nutrition education lessons and games, and added a new element to what they were doing. 

Progress—involved the students, encouraging them to practice problem solving by brainstorming on how to make healthy menu choices.  As an added bonus, hot meals were offered that allowed for increased food variety. 

And finally, Passion—which created enthusiasm for the community, the children, and the summer staff.  Through the Passion, the children learned table manners and etiquette; how to make healthy food choices; and were engaged in activities that illustrated what they learned during the summer program.

By utilizing the “Five P’s”, the Green Bay Public Schools was successful in expanding the number of feeding sites in the Program and increased participation.

Contact: Sara Schmitz, RD
Phone: 920-391-2568

N.E.W. CALVARY CHAPEL Coleville, Washington

As a first time sponsor of the Summer Food Service Program, the N.E.W. Calvary Chapel located in a very rural area in eastern Washington State, stepped up to the plate to provide children in their community with Program meals from late-June to late-August.

Pastor Thomas E. Schulz and community members were committed and successful in getting Program information out to the community.

Pastor Schulz volunteered numerous hours to the planning, coordinating, and operation of the SFSP. He was able to secure rental for a kitchen to prepare the meals at a very low cost, only after learning that the school district was unable to provide the service. He received support (man hours, in-kind donations, and financial support) from volunteers to monitor the program, supervise and prepare the meals, transport the supplies needed by the feeding site; and gathered teenagers in the park and encouraged them to participate in the Program.      

Pastor Schulz secured the services of a local vendor to purchase pre-packaged items such as fruit cups and string cheese. However, several weeks into the Program, he learned that the children preferred hot meals to cold lunches. Due to his outstanding commitment, his Program managed to provide the children with hot meals.     

Next year, N.E.W. Calvary Chapel plans to work with the local parks and recreation department to provide more meals to children in the park. Since they are a faith-based organization, the Pastor believes he will have ample volunteers to help. They also plan to keep next year's menus fairly simple and with their dedication, compassion, and commitment to the Program, they will be a successful sponsor for many years to come.

Contact: Pastor Thomas E. Schulz
Phone: 509-684-6840

Fueling Young Minds
Milwaukee, Wisconsin

"Fueling Young Minds" was the result of a collaborative effort of several organizations, primarily organized by the Hunger Task Force, interested in alleviating childhood hunger during the summer months. Each organization agreed to bridge the gap, and provide the necessary resources to increase participating in the SFSP.

One partner, Harley-Davidson Foundation, provided the resources for outreach and marketing materials; program operational costs; and sponsored a motorcycle rally to promote program participation.

Milwaukee Public Schools opened 44 core schools in targeted neighborhoods with significant poverty. These sites offered recreational, educational programs, hot meals, and operated from mid-June through late-August.

The Social Development Commission (SDC) agreed to target neighborhoods lacking access to a school feeding site. SDC provided local churches, Boys and Girls Clubs, YMCA sites and others with sack lunches.

The Salvation Army provided a food van to serve meals in many of the remaining targeted neighborhoods. Another partner, Impact, operated a “211” information and referral line and upgraded its telephone technology in order to provide parents and caregivers with locations of the closest feeding site. While the Hunger Task Force provided staff support to organize a community-wide mailing and spearheaded the marketing and outreach activities.

The collaboration made an important investment in the community and ensured that all children, regardless of their background, have a chance at good nutrition year-round.

Contact: Sherrie Tussler, Executive Director
Phone: 414-777-0483

Ware Shoals, South Carolina

This is the second year that Little River Baptist Church has won an award for improving access to SFSP. In 1999, the church met USDA's challenge to increase participation at their sites by ten percent. In 2000, the church challenged itself to increase the number of sites by 15 percent. Church staff contacted school administrators, sent out mailings, canvassed neighborhoods door-to-door, and enlisted help from local government, education, and housing officials to recruit children. A steering committee charted the church's progress month by month.

At a 1998 National conference hosted by USDA’s Child Nutrition Division, Former Under Secretary Shirley Watkins challenged SFSP administrators to increase participation at Summer feeding sites by ten percent. Responding to this challenge, Little River set high standards for its program. It initiated the Partnership, Outreach, and Parent Involvement Initiative. Through the initiative, it increased the number of sites it sponsored from one in 1998 to ten in 1999. Its average daily participation rates also grew from 107 in 1998 to 660 in 1999.A key to success was involving the parents as much as possible. To achieve this, Little River sent bi-weekly newsletters home with the children, invited parents to drop in at the sites, and formed a parent advisory board. Parents gave back to the program, too, by volunteering to serve as drivers to overcome the transportation barrier that prevented some children from participating in meal services. 

Contact: Rev. Sylvester Jackson
Phone: 864-456-4499 

Baltimore, Maryland

The Maryland Summer Feeding Coalition builds public and private partnerships to enhance its Summer Program and increase participation in urban, suburban, and rural communities throughout the state of Maryland. In 1998, the consortium drew on the talents and resources of anti-hunger advocates, state officials, program sponsors, and food industry leaders. Additionally, it provided an opportunity for administrators and supporters of the Summer Program to exchange ideas, solve problems, and network to maximize their limited resources. 

Contact: Brenda Schwaab
Phone: 410-366-0600

South Burlington, Vermont

The Vermont Campaign to End Childhood Hunger is a member-supported nonprofit organization which helps communities across the state establish new Summer feeding sites. Because the Campaign successfully lobbied Vermont’s legislators to increase Vermont's funding for the Summer Program, Vermont’s participation in the Summer Program expanded from 47 sites to 120 sites in 1998, a 30 percent increase from 1997. The organization attributes its success to partnerships with faith-based organizations. Currently, sixty congregations in the Episcopal Diocese, United Church of Christ, and other religious institutions in Vermont participate in the program as sponsors, volunteers, or donors. Working with community volunteers have allowed the Campaign to offer training, community organizing assistance, outreach, help with program applications, networking opportunities between experienced and new sponsors, and small grants for educational and enrichment activities. 

Contact: Robert Dostis
Phone: 802-865-0255

Johnstown, Pennsylvania

Letters were sent home to each family in the Johnstown school district at the end of the school year announcing the Summer in the City program, a closed enrolled 8-week program for youth aged 4 to 15. During its operations, the site hosted two weather reporters from a local television station. The station was doing a segment on the SFSP and the Summer in the City program. Partnerships with the Rotary Club and the Cambria County Child Development Corporation donated supplies and in-kind staff hours to help make this program a success. Children's birthdays were recognized at the sites and the birthday kids were offered presents (e.g., Pokemon toys, fresh baked cookies) to help them celebrate their special day and foster a sense of belonging in the program. 

Contact: William Geisweidt
Phone: 814-533-5563 

Aurora, Illinois

To announce the availability of SFSP meals, the sponsor distributed 14,000 brochures to parents and students and mailed individual letters to 15 grassroots organizations throughout the city. The mailings listed feeding sites in the area and provided information on the SFSP. Aurora Township Youth Services also updated a community directory to include the SFSP. The directory serves as a great vehicle to promote the program because it is distributed to schools, churches, and other local service agencies. This sponsor overcame the barrier of labor costs by convincing the sites to donate staff time. By doing this, over one-third of the labor was provided at no cost to the SFSP or Aurora Township.

Contact: Ken Maurice
Phone: 630-859-7501

Portland, Maine

The biggest challenge this sponsor faced was finding suitable kitchen space to prepare a large quantity of meals every summer. Volunteers of America, which operate a large housing site for low-income elderly, had a large kitchen it was not using at the time. East End entered into a collaborative agreement with them. As part of this new partnership, East End prepares meals for the residents on a year-round basis, in addition to the SFSP meals during the summer months. This maximizes the use of the kitchen facility and relieves the sponsor of having to search for available facilities every SFSP. The sponsor also partnered with other groups such as the University of Maine's Extension Service, Portland's public health department, Head Start, and WIC. These partnerships allowed the sponsor to provide fun activities at the site and opportunities to promote the Program. This encouraged children to attend all summer long and assisted the sponsor in locating appropriate feeding sites. 

Contact: Lynn McGrath
Phone: 207-772-5467

Richwood, Louisiana

The Richwood Summer Program launched an aggressive year-round campaign to reach out to all churches, day care facilities, and recreational centers in the community. It promoted the program through letters, public service announcements, and church bulletins. Although most of the churches provided their own transportation to the feeding sites, the sponsor provided transportation for those children and groups that would not otherwise have been able to get to and from the feeding site. The sponsor also regularly polled children at the meal sites to find out what type of foods kids wanted to eat so that it could serve meals that were nutritious and tasty. Daily participation rates were maintained through continuing outreach efforts (e.g., posting flyers at churches). Children were also kept informed about the times of meal service and the lunch program through a billboard display outside of the town hall.

Contact: Jacqualine J. Nwufoh
Phone: 318-323-3254

Prineville, Oregon

One caring person in the community can make a difference! To prove this, Terry Wood contacted the local school district because she wanted to provide meals to children during the summer. A grandmother to five children who all participate in Prineville's Summer Program, was not her only motivation for starting a summer feeding program in her community. She feels good knowing that all kids in Prineville have access to good nutrition when the schools are closed. To begin this process, Terry contacted the local school district, a day care center, nearby Boys and Girls Clubs, the Parks and Recreation Department, a local work/study program sponsored by the Forest Service, bible school and many other programs to request their participation. All were eager to participate in the Summer Program and serve meals to children. She and the local school district relied on the support and technical assistance of the Oregon Summer Food Service Program State Agency to make the program a success. Terry and her staff also took classes in Spanish so they could communicate with the Spanish speaking children and their parents. 

Contact: Terry Wood
Phone: 541-447-7675

Detroit, Michigan

With the help from the local health department, a local anti-hunger advocacy coalition and USDA's Midwest Regional office, the city of Detroit was able to stabilize declining participation rates in the Summer Program. In 1997 and 1998, Detroit's Summer Program had a 13 percent decrease in the average daily attendance at its Summer feeding sites. To address the problem, partners met to define the goals of the program and create new outreach strategies. In the past, one of the biggest barriers to participation was not being able to reach out directly to the students through the public schools. By working with the district’s resource coordinator, however, the City of Detroit was able to overcome this barrier. The sponsor also overcame another challenge—reversing the negative perception of Summer meals. It worked with vendors to provide a variety of breads and a variety of non-turkey based meats, and chocolate milk. A mass media campaign was also organized to advertise the program. 

Contact: Sharon Quincy
Phone: 313-876-4554

Baltimore, Maryland

In January 1999, the Baltimore County Public Schools invited advocacy groups, staff from the local Parks and Recreation Department, Title I school coordinators, the school system public information coordinators, and other church and community-based groups to participate on a Summer Outreach Committee. Its hope was to expand the size of the program and length of time it operated. It promoted participation in the program by: 1) launching an aggressive campaign on the radio, local TV stations, and in local newspapers targeting community groups such as churches and the Police Athletic League; 2) distributing posters produced by the Maryland Summer Feeding Coalition, a local advocacy organization, at open sites and in the community; and, 3) establishing a Summer Program hotline to accept calls from potential sites and participants. The result was increased participation levels at its feeding sites. In 1995, Baltimore County Public Schools sponsored less than 30 sites which served 800-900 kids during 4 to 5 weeks. Four years later, it sponsored 90 sites, serving over 3,500 kids and the program lasted 10 weeks. 

Contact: JoAnne Koehler
Phone: 410-887-7855

Albany, Kentucky 

Because of drastic demographic changes during 1998 (e.g., the county experienced high levels of unemployment as two major factories closed), the community noticed an increased need for Summer meals. The Clinton County Board of Education responded to this need by increasing the number of feeding sites it sponsored. Meals were available at schools, churches, a mobile home park, and at picnic tables in a low-income housing project. In addition, Clinton County sponsored a remote site in nearby Cumberland county to provide hot meals to approximately 110 children. Since its start in 1994, the program has grown from 3 sites to 25. During the summer of 1998, the program provided over 20,893 lunches and 4,789 breakfasts to children participating in the Summer Program.
Phone: 606-387-7534

Kansas City, Missouri

In an urban community with an unemployment rate of 6.9 percent, there is a great need for nutrition assistance to low-income families. The Kansas City School District and the Neighborhood Community Services worked together to meet this need. The result was a cost-effective feeding program that provided over 600,000 Summer meals in 1998 to children when school was out of session. Community outreach was a top priority in the Kansas City Summer Program. Examples of outreach included: mailings, springtime SFSP flyers, media campaigns, a planning team with members of the Food Research and Action Center, and community partnerships with the YMCA, Boys and Girls Club and local churches. In return for its support, the main partnering organization provided leadership training to over 400 Summer Program volunteers and staff. 

Contact: Martina Bowden
Phone: 816-929-4055

Albuquerque, New Mexico

In 1998, there were approximately 750 Summer sites in New Mexico that provided nutritious meals to children. The State agency successfully promoted participation in the program through: 1) community partnerships with both the public and private sector, 2) media campaigns, 3) annual meal activity themes, and 3) visits to meal sites. They focused on increasing Summer participation by encouraging sponsors to increase participation numbers from the previous year and to administer new meal sites when previous sponsors did not reapply to participate in the Program. Finally, the State agency encouraged the maximum participation of private nonprofit organizations to meet the needs of communities. Family members were invited to participate in all meals and activities with the children.

Contact: Elizabeth Castillo
Phone: 505-841-9410

Columbus, Ohio

The Ohio Governor's office launched the Summer Program Awareness Week in June of 1998. This demonstrated a strong commitment to the Summer Food Service Program in Ohio. The week drew attention to the Summer Program statewide and to individual programs. Sponsors were introduced to the regional fox mascot and were encouraged to develop flyer templates and activities that supported the Outfox Hunger theme. The winning name for the mascot, "Munch," was also selected during the week. A sample activity packet was then given to each sponsor so it could conduct an awareness week in its own community. To promote awareness of the Summer Program, the communications team of the Department of Education distributed media releases to newspapers and radio stations announcing the week. Feedback from sponsors indicated that the success of their programs was a result of this statewide advertisement campaign.

Contact: Laura Pernice
Phone: 614-466-9509