School is out for the summer, and that means many Texas children will have to face summer days without enough food to eat. They are among the nearly two million young Texans who are food insecure, meaning that they don’t always know where their next meal is coming from. However, Texas children don’t have to go hungry this summer.
The Texas Department of Agriculture (TDA) partners with community organizations to serve healthy meals to children at meal sites across Texas. The Summer Food Service Program (SFSP) provides children age 18 or younger with meals and helps students succeed by connecting them with the nutrition they need to return to school in the fall healthy and prepared to thrive.
“Ensuring children have year-round access to good nutrition is a priority for the Texas Department of Agriculture,” Agriculture Commissioner Sid Miller said. “During the long summer vacation, families may face additional challenges in providing their children with adequate nutrition. That’s why our team and our valued partners across the state work so hard to make the Summer Food Service Program accessible to everyone and a huge success. This is a Texas-size step in the right direction for combating hunger in the Lone Star State.”
SFSP efforts reach children in remote rural communities, as well as the largest cities in the state. This program is vital to nourishing young Texans. Texas families can use one of the following three means to find a nearby site:
· Call 211,
· Visit TDA’s online meal site locator at www.summerfood.org or
· Text FOODTX to 877-877.
In partnership with the U.S. Department of Agriculture (USDA), TDA administers two federally funded programs to help address childhood hunger during the summer. SFSP provides schools, nonprofit summer camps, governmental entities, and other nonprofit organizations such as churches with the opportunity to serve meals to children across Texas. Schools have the option of participating in the Seamless Summer Option (SSO) or SFSP, allowing them to continue meal service after the academic year ends. SFSP and SSO are funded by USDA and administered by TDA in Texas.
Organizations partner with TDA to serve meals at sites in designated areas, such as areas where more than 50 percent of children are eligible for free or reduced-price meals in the National School Lunch Program. Meals will be provided to individuals age 18 or younger without charge, as well as adults over the age of 18 who are determined by a state or local educational agency to have a mental or physical disability and who participate in a public or private school program established for people with mental or physical disabilities.
All meal sites must be sponsored by an organization that has a contract with TDA. Approved SSO and SFSP sponsors operating in accordance with federal and state regulations will be reimbursed for meals served to children.
To increase awareness of SFSP and SSO, many sponsor sites will host outreach initiatives like kick-off events, as well as distribute promotional materials and conduct media campaigns. Schools also provided information to students at the end of the school year about how to find meal sites using TDA’s three tools: visiting SummerFood.Org, calling 211 or texting FOODTX to 877-877. TDA encourages parents to connect with their child’s school to learn more about food assistance programs.
At closed-enrolled sites, which are located in areas where poor economic conditions do not exist, free meals are limited to enrolled students and based on the income eligibility guidelines established by USDA. Foster children and children who are members of households receiving Supplemental Nutrition Assistance Program (SNAP), Food Distribution Program on Indian Reservations or Temporary Assistance to Needy Families (TANF) benefits are automatically eligible to receive free meal benefits at SFSP or SSO closed enrolled sites.
Meals are the same for all children regardless of race, color, national origin, sex, age or disability, and there will be no discrimination in the course of the meal service.
For more information about TDA’s Summer Nutrition Programs, visit www.summerfood.org or call TDA’s Food and Nutrition Division at (877) TEX-MEAL or (877) 839-6325.