Summer program to feed state's low-income children seeks sponsors

Monday, January 31, 2011 at 7:29pm
Staff reports

The Tennessee Department of Human Services announced Monday it is looking for sponsors for its 2011 Summer Food Service Program (SFSP).

The SFSP is an annual effort to ensure that low-income children have additional opportunities to receive nutritious meals during summer vacation. It begins when the school year ends for the state’s various school systems.  

To implement the SFSP, DHS contracts annually with several local agencies, or "sponsors," to prepare, deliver and serve free meals and snacks to children at approved locations in low-income areas. In 2010, 58 sponsors served more than 2.6 million meals at 1,500 feeding sites statewide. Locations included parks, playgrounds, recreation centers, schools, churches, camps and housing projects, among others.

Congress has authorized and funded the program, which is administered through the U.S. Department of Agriculture.  

“During the school year, low-income children receive free and reduced-price meals — and for some, that represents the only way to get the daily nutrition they need,” DHS Commissioner Raquel Hatter said in a release. “This program ensures that their nutritional needs will be met in the summer months as well.”

Sponsorship of the SFSP is limited to public and private nonprofit school food authorities; state, county or municipal governments; colleges and universities participating in the National Youth Sports Program; residential public or private nonprofit summer camps; and private non-profit organizations.

Sponsors must agree to serve meals to all children in attendance regardless of race, color, national origin, gender, age or disability.

Doug Hutchison, program manager with the department’s Adult and Family Services Division, said the program has grown from 24 sponsors in 1989 (when Human Services began administering it) to 58 last summer. The program began in 1968.

“We’re always wanting to serve more children and certainly in areas where we need strong viable sponsors,” Hutchison said. “In some counties across the state, we have no sponsors.”

For information on becoming an SFSP sponsor or linking up with an existing sponsor, contact Hutchison or David Farmer before March 11 at  (615) 313‑4749 or by e-mail at david.farmer@tn.gov or doug.hutchison@tn.gov. The deadline for new agencies to submit applications for sponsorship to DHS is at least 30 days prior to the anticipated starting date of each respective location.