School’s Almost Out – It’s Time to Think Farm to Summer

Cucumbers, raspberries, onions, strawberries, zucchini ... the list goes on and on. It seems like summer is when we really start to eat well.

The bounty is great, but how can we get these colorful foods onto our kid’s plates when school is out? According to Kayte Partch of the Nebraska Department of Education, the Summer Food Service Program (SFSP) provides ample opportunity for our kids eat real food at zero cost to the family.

We interviewed Kayte about the Summer Food Service Program. But first, we talked to Brenda Buchholz, Food Service Manager of Overton Public Schools, who operates a summer program site.

Overton Public Schools feeds about 60-80 kids a day in June and July. They’ve been participating in the program for five years. Brenda thinks it’s a win-win-win. “The kids love it when the products are fresher. Food service staff appreciates earning a paycheck when school isn’t in session. And I like financially supporting my local neighbors. If I can bring local produce into the program, I will.”

You can purchase local products in Nebraska by directly purchasing from farmers, shopping at your local farmers’ market, or purchasing through the Nebraska Food Cooperative.

The Summer Food Service Program serves children from 1-18 years old in enrolled programs like camps and in open sites. Open sites are the most common, and those provide FREE meals to all children who attend. Enrolled programs also provide free meals to all program participants, but they have a few more eligibility requirements.

Kayte says breakfast, lunch, supper, and snacks can be served. There are some restrictions, depending on the type of site. The program is not limited to schools. Any public or private nonprofit can sponsor a summer food program. “In Nebraska, we have church groups, food banks, and the Salvation Army to name a few,” says Kayte.

The Summer Food Service Program is a great way for a community to care for its youth. Kayte says they have gathered data showing the combination of healthy meals and enrichment programming reduces the typical “learning loss” among students on summer vacation. It also gives communities a chance to grow the local economy, especially with locally sourced foods.

Kayte sees benefits beyond the obvious ones. “The program’s nutritious meals help ensure low-income children (who are at higher risk of overweight and obesity and associated health problems) have a better chance at a higher quality of life without the burden of chronic disease. The least expensive foods are often the least beneficial to health. This program helps ensure children receive high-quality, nutritious foods to support their healthy growth and development.”

To learn more about becoming a Summer Food Service Program site, please contact Katye Partch, Program Specialist with the Nebraska Department of Education, at kayte.partch@nebraska.gov or 402.471.2945.

If you are a farmer or food producer interested in selling your products to a site, check out http://www.education.ne.gov/ns/sfsp/sfsp_sponsors.html or contact Sarah Smith, sarahs@cfra.org, for help connecting.