Creative Strategies for a More Successful Summer Food Service Program

If your district is participating in a local Summer Food Service Program (SFSP), you know how important it is to provide nutritious meals even after the last day of school. There are many ways to increase participation in the program, including some out-of-the-box methods you may have never considered. These creative tips can help you brainstorm how to best promote your SFSP this summer.

Host fun events! Kick off your program with a fun event to engage sponsors, partners, families, and the community. You could host a health fair, a group exercise class, contests, music and more! Keep the events going throughout the year to re-engage the community, as site attendance tends to drop off in early July. Take a look at the USDA Food and Nutrition Service resources for information on how to bring your events to life!

Know your audience! Cater to the unique tastes of younger children, teens, and everyone in between. If your program allows, it may be beneficial to consider serving different age groups at different times in different ways. Targeting teens can be a challenge, so try taking your promotions to social media, plan events targeted towards teens, and provide volunteer or job opportunities to really get older students involved.

Go farm fresh with locally sourced fruits and vegetables! Did you know SFSP aligns well with a lot of peak growing seasons?  You can help support local growers while providing the very best for the children you serve! The USDA provides resources for incorporating local food into your SFSP menu.

Take your meals mobile! Expand your audience by hitting the road with your program. Consider a bus or food truck to bring summer feeding to the customer. Many programs are moving towards food trucks, for example, New Haven, Connecticut served more than 700 meals in their first week with their food truck on the road!

Partner with summer camps! Local summer camps are often responsible for providing lunch for many kids at a time. By partnering with summer camps, they can offer nutritious meals for lunch at no cost, while you bring in a bus full of hungry kids to your SFSP!

Serve adults too! Often times parents, guardians, and other adults accompany children to the feeding sites. Offset some of your expenses by providing meals that also appeal to these adults. Additionally, serving adults can help boost family and community engagement, provide children with healthy role models, and expand your site’s impact on hunger and nutrition. Read more here about the USDA’s regulations on feeding adults.  

Check out the USDA-FNS’s Summer Meals Toolkit for more creative ideas and resources for bringing these strategies to life!

New USDA Branch Hosts Webinars on USDA Foods Complaint Process

Last week, the USDA Food and Nutrition Service’s Food Distribution Division (FDD) announced its newest branch, the Program Integrity and Monitoring Branch (PIMB). The branch will oversee a variety of food programs including: USDA Foods entitlement for schools, USDA Foods customer feedback, and DoD Fresh. PIMB consists of veteran FDD staff new hires from State and Regional offices.

The PIMB will be airing two new webinars on the USDA Foods Complaint Process:  “Demystifying the USDA Foods Complaint Process,” and “Applying the USDA Foods Complaint Process: Common Questions and Scenarios.”

  • Demystifying the USDA Foods Complaint Process
    Friday, December 11, 2015 – 2:00 pm to 3:00 pm EDT
  • Applying the USDA Foods Complaint Process: Common Questions and Scenarios Thursday, January 7, 2016 – 2:00 pm to 3:00 pm EDT – Registration coming soon

We hope you find these webinars to be helpful! And remember, you can watch their archived webinars on the USDA’s Food Distribution YouTube Channel. Click here to receive their email updates.

Meals Plus Spotlight: Malissa Marsden, SNS

Malissa Marsden, SNS, is a consultant that collaborates with USDA Agriculture Marketing Boards (aka Commodity Boards) to connect USDA Foods with child nutrition professionals. She uses Meals Plus Nutritional Analysis and Menu Planning software to create recipes for school districts using USDA Foods. (Click here to read more about her latest recipes with IQF Diced Mushrooms!) 

The Dish: How long have you been using Meals Plus Menu Planning and Nutrient Analysis software?
Malissa Marsden, SNS: Just over one year, and still learning more about the system and its capabilities every day.

From left to right: Malissa Marsden, SNS, Dayle Hayes, Consultant, and Katie Pries, Marketing Director for The Mushroom Council, at the 2014 Fall Dairy Council Breakfast.

TD: What duties and responsibilities does your job entail?
MM: The short answer is “playing with food and feeding kids.” My clients are agricultural boards and branded manufacturers who want to promote their products to school nutrition. Many of their products currently are or will become USDA Foods that are available to school nutrition programs via direct delivery and/or diversion.

I educate myself on what K-12 schools need to better utilize the USDA foods and branded products for school nutrition. I then work to create the tools that schools need. This part often involves working with ad agencies to create the vision we have developed. I have been at photo shoots of my recipes and it is always fun to watch them come alive. Now I generally assist in the photo shoots long distance.

TD: What aspects of your job do you enjoy the most?
MM: Working with kids, Dayle Hayes from School Meals That Rock, and my clients. I am blessed to work with so many others that are committed to promoting healthy, tasty school meals we are all proud of.

TD: What do you like to do in your free time?
MM: I enjoy visiting my six grands and hanging out on our boat, watching the Intracoastal go by!

TD: What is your favorite lunch when you were in school?
MM: We walked home from school and ate whatever our Great Aunt Margie cooked and it was all great!