Summer Meals Program Seeks Sponsors, All Communities Eligible

New Jersey Secretary of Agriculture Douglas H. Fisher has announced that the Department has summer meals available at more than 2,400 sites around the state this summer. This summer, due to COVID-19 pandemic, the USDA has granted all communities, including those that are under 50 percent eligible for free/reduce priced school meals, the opportunity to offer feeding sites to expand the program to children in the community.

The result is that feeding is taking place through a combination of the Summer Food Service Program and the School Nutrition Program. The NJDA’s Summer Food Service Program, (SFSP) currently has 161 sponsors representing 1,083 sites, and through the Seamless Summer Option, (SSO), the school program has 598 sponsors representing 1,323 sites.

The Seamless Summer Option became available this year as schools stopped meeting in their traditional school building settings in March due to COVID-19. That option was extended through the summer by the USDA to allow students access to meals. The sites can be found by using the USDA site finder by texting FOOD to 877-877 or visiting bit.ly/3eCQygp.

“One of our first priorities when the pandemic began was to make sure children had access to healthy meals,” Secretary Fisher said. “With the USDA’s Seamless Summer Option, along with the Summer Food Service Program, more meals are being provided to meet essential needs in this unprecedented time.”

Started in 1976 as an outgrowth of the National School Lunch Program, the Summer Food Service Program is designed to ensure those who are age 18 or younger in low-income areas have access to meals while school is out. It also is open to people over 18 who are mentally or physically handicapped and who participate in public or nonprofit private programs established for the disabled.

The federally funded Summer Food Service Program reimburses participating organizations for meals served to children who live in areas in which at least 50 percent of the children qualify for free or reduced-price meals under the National School Lunch Program.

Schools participating in the National School Lunch or School Breakfast Program are eligible to apply for the Seamless Summer Option. The Seamless Summer Option is another way for schools to feed children during the summer months. Once approved by the State agency, the school serves meals free of charge to children, including teenagers through age 18, under the school meal program rules.

To learn more about the Summer Food Service Program or how to become a sponsor, visit bit.ly/V233JR. To find a feeding site near you, call the National Hunger Hotline at 1-866-3-HUNGRY (1-866-348-6479) or text Food to 877-877

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