The Spend Smart. Eat Smart. Team has been sharing their kitchens with you and what menu planning looks like for each of them, including tips and recipes. Unfortunately, the onset of the COVID-19 pandemic has made it difficult for many families to provide enough food due to lack of resources. This is particularly true for households with young children. In an effort to ease the burden on families, I would like to share information about a program available in your community that provides nutritious meals and snacks to children, 18 and under, during the COVID-19 pandemic and the coming summer months.
The USDA Summer Food Service Program (SFSP) was established to fill the gap when children lose access to meals when schools are closed. Most often this occurs during summer vacation. However, during school closures related to the pandemic, meals are also being made available. You have the opportunity to supplement the food you have at home with meals and snacks for your children from local schools and community organizations. In an effort to maintain social distancing, USDA has made temporary changes that allow parents or guardians to pick up meals and take them home for their children. Organizations have come up with creative ways to make these nutritious meals available in your community through grab and go curbside pickup, providing meals for multiple days at one time, and some including “take and bake” options, and weekend meals.
You can find a meal site in your area via three easy options:
- Text “Food” or “Comida” to 877-877
- Call 2-1-1, 1-866-3-HUNGRY (1-866-348-6479), or 1-877-8-HAMBRE (1-877-842-6273) (for Spanish)
- Visit https://www.fns.usda.gov/meals4kids
Take the stress out of providing nutritious meals and snacks to your children by participating at a site near you! Spread the word to family, friends, and neighbors!
Stephanie Dross is a Registered Dietitian with the Iowa Department of Education, Bureau of Nutrition and Health Services. She coordinates the Department’s Summer Food Service Program and loves to garden and cook with her family.