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!

National Summer Food Service Program Kickoff Week (June 11 – 15)

June 11-15, 2012 is the USDA’s 2nd Annual National Summer Food Service Program Kickoff Week. With most schools out for the summer break, the USDA is using the opportunity to highlight their Summer Food Service Program which helps provide healthy meals to low-income students during the summer months. And because with so many students that qualify for free or reduced lunches, the meals they receive in the school cafeteria are the most nutritious meals they receive, summer meal programs are necessary.

If you’re interested in helping to spread the word about the program, the USDA has plenty of ways for you to get involved. You can share the number for the USDA’s National Hunger Hotline, which offers information on where meal sites are located in your area. They can be reached at 1-866-3-HUNGRY or 1-877-8-HAMBRE. They also offer SFSP Public Service Announcements that you can give to your local radio station and they will play them for free.

They also offer customizable templates for print materials such as fliers, brochures, doorhangers and more.

Follow the USDA blog or @USDANutrition on Twitter for more information.

June is also National Hunger Awareness Month and in addition to Nourish NC and the USDA Summer Food Service Program, we’d like to feature other summer meal programs across the country. Do you have a similar program in your area? Tell us about it!

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