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!

Jackson County Schools (NC) Begins Summer Food Service Program

This month is National Hunger Awareness Month, which is fitting because as the summer break begins, millions of children that receive free or reduced school meals at their school cafeteria are at risk of going hungry this summer.  We are featuring programs like Nourish NC and the USDA Summer Food Service Program on our blog in the hopes of increasing participation for them. The Summer Food Service Program in Jackson County is managed by Jackson County Schools and the MANNA FoodBank of Asheville.

The Jackson County program is in its third year and provides free lunch to children in the area. With the help of church volunteers and civic groups, they are able to serve highly nutritious meals to local children, and no registration or requirements are necessary to receive the free lunches.

Out of the four food sites in the county, they expect to feed nearly 200 children a day. Below is the complete schedule that runs from June 1 – July 31, 2012.

  • River Park Mobile Home Park – Monday through Friday from 12-1pm
  • Jackson Co. Recreation Center – Monday through Friday from 12-1pm
  • First Presbyterian Church Shelter – Monday through Friday from 11:30am-12:15pm
  • Cashiers Community Center – Tuesdays, Wednesdays and Thursdays from 12-12:30pm

Do you have a similar program in your area that you’d like help promoting? Tell us about it and we will feature them on our blog, Facebook and Twitter!