I never tire of meeting the organizations and individuals across our great country that help feed hungry children. In late January, Ohio Senator Sherrod Brown teamed up with the Ohio Department of Education and the Ohio Association of Second Harvest Food Banks to hold a summit on preventing child hunger in the summer.
The depths of winter might seem a strange time to discuss summer feeding programs, but good planning is essential to ensure that kids don’t experience hunger in the summer. So January was the perfect time for such meeting!
I was fortunate enough to attend the summit which was held at Columbus’s Mid-Ohio Foodbank since USDA offers the perfect recipe for eliminating hunger during those months when school’s out—the Summer Food Service Program(SFSP).
The challenge, presented by both the senator and myself, is this: while more than 700,000 Ohio children are eligible to receive free or reduced priced meals at their school, less than 13 percent of all eligible children receive this assistance during the summer. These statistics reveal that there are many children who need nutritious food but don’t have access to the SFSP in their area.
The State needs more organizations to sponsor sites and sponsors need additional resources from the community in order to fully realize the potential of the SFSP—which was the reason for the summit.
After hearing about the successes in the Buckeye State and the enthusiasm of summit attendees for expanding the use of USDA’s summer program, I’m confident that more Ohio children will be fed this coming summer.
Thanks to all of those committed Buckeyes—from Senator Brown to the Ohio Association of Second Harvest Food Banks and summit host Mid-Ohio Foodbank—for their efforts to reduce hunger!
Please follow USDA’s Food and Nutrition Service on Twitter.
Kevin Concannon is the USDA Under Secretary for Food, Nutrition, and Cosumer Services.