LANSING - The Michigan Department of Education is looking for community sponsors to run summer food programs to prevent more than 552,000 children in Michigan from going hungry when school lunchrooms close for the summer.
The Summer Food Service Program could fill the summer hunger gap for hundreds of thousands of children if more sponsors are signed up to run the food program.
Last year, out of the over 552,000 low-income Michigan children who were eligible, only around 85,000 (15 percent) were served the free meals or snacks at approved summer meal sites in their neighborhoods.
"Many families across Michigan are struggling, and we can't have children going hungry in the summer when programs like this are available," state Superintendent of Public Instruction Mike Flanagan said. "I am calling on schools, churches, and local government and civic organizations to step up and have a positive impact on the lives and health of children in their community by being a Summer Food Service Program sponsor."
Research shows a direct relationship between good nutrition and learning. The Summer Food Service Program is a key building block in Michigan communities to develop healthy, happy kids who are ready to learn.
"There is a desperate need and the food is available," Flanagan said. "We just need more locations around the state to serve the children."
Sponsors receive federal payments for both the meals served to children and the administrative costs of serving the meals. New sponsors will receive free training and technical assistance from MDE.
The Summer Food Service Program serves nutritious meals to children up to age 18 living in low-income areas (where 50 percent or more of the students qualify for free or reduced price school meals).
The program can operate in schools, public housing centers, playgrounds, camps, parks, and faith-based facilities.
Sponsors can be public school districts or nonprofit private schools; public or private nonprofit residential summer camps; local, county or state government agencies; colleges or universities; or private nonprofit organizations.
To sponsor the program this summer, organizations need to contact MDE by March 31, 2012. Applications and sponsor information may be obtained from MDE's Grants Coordination and School Support office, Summer Food Service Program, 608 W. Allegan Street, P.O. Box 30008, Lansing, MI 48909; by calling (517) 373-3347; or on the MDE website at: www.michigan.gov/sfsp.