Tuesday, July 12, 2011

Salem-Keizer School District closes down Summer Meal Sites

Many people aren't aware of the Summer Food Service Program, which allows organizations to provide free meals to children in areas where at lease 50 percent of children qualify for free or reduced school lunches. Recently, Organic Fresh Fingers has begun to serve non-profit organizations the food for these Summer Meal Sites. Our goal is to open more of these sites throughout Salem & Keizer. There is a huge need for more of these sites, as only 12% of children who qualify are participating.

The Statesman Journal recently published an article about the Salem Keizer School District Food Services, which is run by Sodexo, a multi-national institutional food service company, being "forced" to close down half of its summer meal sites. And of the remaining 13 sites, only five serve meals all summer. The reason cited for shutting down these sites is because of budget restrictions.

Organic Fresh Fingers has created an innovative way to not only service summer meal sites in a cost-effective way, but also provide higher quality meals, including handmade entrees and organic produce. We refuse to accept the fact that children should go hungry during the summer. It absolutely is financially feasible, and Organic Fresh Fingers is doing it!

Below is an excerpt from the Statesman Journal article. To read the entire article, click here.

The National School Lunch Program, through free and reduced-price meals, ensures that children of low-income families don't have to learn on an empty stomach.

And the Summer Food Service Program picks up where the school year leaves off, feeding kids free meals in areas where at least 50 percent of children participate in the school lunch program.

But last year, only 12 percent of Marion County's children who participated in the school lunch program during the school year received summer meals.

That ranks the county 31st out of the 32 counties in the state that have summer meals programs, according to a Partners for Hunger-Free Oregon analysis...

The participation rate for the Salem-Keizer School District — where 22,684 students out of 39,459 ate free or reduced-price lunches in May — was slightly lower than that of the county, at 11 percent.

This year, the district has cut its summer meal sites by almost half, citing budget cuts, construction at some locations and low participation in others as reasons for reducing the number of meal sites to 13.

Just five of those are serving meals all summer, and three of them have yet to begin.

...Lynne Reinoso, manager of the Summer Food Service Program for the state Department of Education, said the number of the district's sites is concerning.

"It's definitely a problem," she said. "It would be nice if they could increase it."

Teresa White, branch director of the Swegle Boys & Girls Club, said she has seen an increase in the number of meals served at her location this summer.

Instead of the 65 meals per day the branch served last summer, it is now serving about 85 kids per day, she said. Still, she doesn't believe her location is reaching every child in need in the neighborhood.

"I think there's more to be fed, especially since they closed a lot of those sites," White said. "I think it's more of a transportation issue of getting those kids to this site."

No comments: