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Ohio Department of Education and Workforce seeks nonprofit partners for summer food service program

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Ohio – Stephen D. Dackin, the head of the Ohio Department of Education and Workforce, is looking for local nonprofit groups to help with this year’s Summer Food Service Program, aiming to get more kids involved in eating healthy meals over the summer holidays. This program is vital for making sure kids from 1 to 18 years old can get good meals while school is out, especially since they can’t get their usual school breakfasts or lunches. Last summer, in 2023, the program in Ohio managed to provide over 5 million meals at more than 2,000 places all around the state.

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The idea is to give out free meals in a bunch of different places like schools, universities, nonprofit spots, parks, camps, community centers, pools, libraries, places where low-income families live, and many others. The groups that run these feeding sites get money back for the food and snacks they give to kids in areas that need it. Nonprofits that have summer programs for kids in poorer neighborhoods are also asked to join in.

“We want our children to be focused, ready, and excited to learn throughout the year and having nutritious foods is critical to this,” said Stephen D. Dackin, director of the Ohio Department of Education and Workforce. “Ohio is focused on student wellness and being able to provide healthy meals to children through the Summer Food Service Program means they are fueled for learning and ready to grow, explore, and discover during the summer months.”

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The Department keeps its Summer Food Service Program site map fresh, updating it every week during summer to show all the spots where kids can get meals, whether they’re open to everyone or just certain groups. For summer camps or specific programs that aren’t open to everyone, families might need to fill out a form to get free meals. This form checks if they fit the income and family size guidelines set by the USDA for cheaper school meals, called “SFSP Income Eligibility Standards.” Kids in foster care or in families getting help from SNAP, FDPIR, or TANF automatically qualify for free meals at these special sites. And it’s important to note that these meals are given to kids no matter their race, color, where they come from, whether they’re a boy or girl, their age, or if they have a disability.

Last summer, in 2023, the program reached children across 79 counties in Ohio, providing much-needed meals. There’s a big push to get more sites up and running in the southern parts of Ohio, as well as in rural spots and places where migrant families live, since those areas have a lot of families facing tough times with not having enough food.

A sponsoring organization must be one of the following:

  • Public or nonprofit private school;
  • Public or nonprofit private residential summer camp;
  • Unit of local, municipal, county or state government;
  • Public or nonprofit college or university; or
  • Private nonprofit organization.

The Summer Food Service Program gets its money from the USDA and is run by the Ohio Department of Education and Workforce. Kids who have disabilities and are on special education plans can join in up until they are 21 years old.

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Organizations that want to help out by being a sponsor or hosting a site need to fill out a survey for potential sponsors. Those looking to be part of the 2024 program should make sure they complete this survey by Monday, April 1.

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