Utah Food Bank to extend outreach of Summer Food Service Program

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The U.S. Department of Agriculture will sponsor the Utah Food Bank’s Summer Food Service Program this summer, allowing the program to serve food in more sites than ever before.

The Summer Food Service Program provides free meals and snacks during the summer to children ages 18 and under from low-income families.

“When school lets out, millions of low-income children lose access to school breakfast, lunch and after-school meals that are available during the regular school year,” said Utahns Against Hunger, the organization dealing with program outreach, on its website. “The Summer Food Service Program fills this gap by providing free meals and snacks to children who might have limited access to nutritious food in the summer.”

With the sponsorship of the U.S. Department of Agriculture, the program will be able to serve nearly 49,000 meals in 25 different sites, significantly expanding its outreach.

“The program will extend Utah Food Bank’s Kids Cafe program by providing free meals to children in both ‘Open Sites’ and ‘Enrolled Programs’ … throughout the state,” the Utah Food Bank said during a press conference on June 1.

“Open Sites” allow kids to receive a meal simply by showing up, while “Enrolled Sites” generally include different camps or summer programs where the children are registered.

Children choose free books to take home at one of the Summer Food Service sites. (Utahns Against Hunger)

Many of the “Open Sites” also provide fun activities for the children. This summer, Utahns Against Hunger has partnered with the Salt Lake City School District to pilot a summer literacy program.

Children who visit Jordan Park on Tuesdays, Sherwood Park on Wednesdays or Northwest Central Park on Thursdays will receive a free book each time they visit.

“We also want families to know that this is not just a program for extremely low-income families,” said Utahns Against Hunger Nutrition Initiative Director Marti Woolford. “Food budgets can rise as much as 300 percent during the summer for families with kids. There is a stigma surrounding it, but we want to reduce that. It’s ok to go and get help when you need it.”

Though parents or young adults over the age of 18 cannot eat for free, they usually can buy a meal at the reduced price of $3.

According to Woolford, college students can also become involved by organizing activities for the kids at different sites. The students can contact their local school district to learn how to get involved.

“There really is a feeling of community when the families can all gather in the park and eat and play together,” Woolford said.

More information is available online for people who want to learn more about the Summer Food Service Program and the sites where the program will be available.

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