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Summer Food Service Program helps meet student nutritional needs during pandemic

Date: 
Wednesday, July 8, 2020
Marshalltown Community School District employees prepare to distribute nutritious meals to students and families.

Marshalltown Community School District employees prepare to distribute nutritious meals to students and families.

School food service programs ramped up this spring to ensure students and families had access to healthy meals during unanticipated school closures related to the COVID-19 pandemic. During these school closures, the Summer Food Service Program (SFSP) was put into action with a majority of Iowa’s schools participating, ultimately handing out over half the meals regularly served when school is in session.

In an effort to maintain social distancing, temporary changes were made to parents or guardians to pick up meals and take them home for their children.

In Iowa, schools and organizations have come up with creative ways to make these nutritious meals available through grab-and-go curbside pickup, providing meals for multiple days at one time, and some including “take and bake” options, and weekend meals. And it’s been successful:

  • During unanticipated school closures during the month of April, 59.5 percent of the meals typically served at school (compared to February 2020 data) were served to Iowa children under the Summer Food Service Program.
  • More than 70 percent of the Summer Food Service Program sponsors are planning to continue to serve meals into the summer months.

“A very special thank you to the school nutrition directors, school administrators, school staff and volunteers who have worked to serve an unprecedented number of meals to help keep our children fed during this time when schools are closed,” said Kala Shipley, bureau chief of the Iowa Department of Education’s Nutrition and Health Services. "Ensuring access to healthy school meals is critical to planning for learning models next school year."

Union Community School District staff set up for food distribution at a Summer Food Service Program meal site.

Union Community School District staff set up for food distribution at a Summer Food Service Program meal site.

The United States Department of Agriculture (USDA) SFSP was established to fill the gap when children lose access to meals when schools are closed. Most often this occurs during summer vacation. However, during school closures related to the pandemic, meals were also being made available.

Balanced nutrition throughout the day contributes to student success in and out of school. Ensuring access to healthy school meals is critical to planning for learning models next school year. Students will depend on school meals to keep them focused on their studies, wherever learning takes place.

You can find a meal site in your area via three easy options:

  • Text “Food” or “Comida” to 877-877
  • Call 2-1-1, 1-866-3-HUNGRY (1-866-348-6479)
  • 1-877-8-HAMBRE (1-877-842-6273) (for Spanish)
  • Visit https://www.fns.usda.gov/meals4kids 

For more information, visit the Iowa Department of Education Summer Food Service Program webpage, and Filling the Gap - ISU Extension and Outreach Blog.

For other resources addressing food insecurity, visit the Feeding Iowans Task Force webpage.

For questions, contact Stephanie Dross at (515) 281-4760 or stephanie.dross@iowa.gov.

Article Type: 

Printed from the Iowa Department of Education website on November 30, 2020 at 11:45am.