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Summer is no vacation from hunger for some Tennessee children

Staff Reports • Updated Jun 8, 2017 at 12:00 PM

NASHVILLE – Local Summer Food Service Program meal sites recently opened to children 18 and younger across the state. 

The Summer Food Service Program is funded by the U.S. Department of Agriculture and administered by the Tennessee Department of Human Services. The purpose of the summer meal program is to ensure children and teens that have access to free and reduced-price meals during the school year also have access to meals during the summer months. Meal sites are often found at community centers, schools, parks and other locations throughout communities.

Neon is the Lebanon Special School district’s first mobile bus cafe for its summer food program. The decommissioned bus was refurbished and fitted with a serving area and six tables with the ability to seat 24 people. 

Beth Petty, Lebanon Special School District family resource center coordinator, said the district served 186 children last Thursday, the first day of the program this year. 

“I think our first day was only in the high 30s last year,” Petty said. 

The summer food program will be at Coles Ferry Elementary School’s cafeteria from 11 a.m. until noon until June 30. 

The program will also be at the Wilson County Civic Center from 11:45 a.m. until 12:05 p.m.; Weatherly Estates from 11:45 a.m. until 12:15 p.m.; Meadows of Lebanon from 10:45-11 a.m.; Peyton Road from 10:45-11 a.m.; Don Fox Park from 12:20-12:50 p.m.; Tater Peeler Road from 11:15-11:30 a.m.; Spring Hill Apartments from 11:15-11:30 a.m. and Rollingwood Apartments from 1:05-1:20 p.m. until July 21.

Second Harvest Food Bank of Middle Tennessee also set up a feeding site at 206 Public Square in Watertown that opened May 31 and will close July 13. It’s open each Monday, Wednesday and Friday from 11 a.m. until noon. For more information, call 615-237-9700. 

More than 3.6 million meals were served last summer at more than 2,300 meal sites across the state as part of SFSP. According to Feeding America, one-in-four Tennessee children may be at risk of hunger. There remains a need for eligible SFSP sponsors, especially in rural counties and remote areas. Eligible sponsors include schools, private nonprofit organizations, government entities and nonprofit residential camps. Sponsors are reimbursed on a per-meal basis for meals served to eligible children and may serve as a sponsor or a site location.

“The Summer Food Service Program shows how local, state and federal partners can work together to make a lasting impact on the well-being of Tennessee’s children,” said TDHS Commissioner Danielle W. Barnes. “We appreciate the tremendous effort of our SFSP sponsors and their commitment to the program.”

The summer program serves as a support for children and families and has become a valuable resource in local communities.

In addition to children 18 and under, a person 19 years of age and older who has a mental or physical disability and participates during the school year in a public or private nonprofit school program established for individuals with disabilities, is also eligible to receive meals.

Any organization interested in sponsoring the SFSP in a community next summer, or becoming a feeding site under an existing sponsor, contact the Department of Human Services at tnsfsp.dhs@tn.gov or 615-313-4749.

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