Let them eat lunch
In an attempt to fill the nutritional void summer break leaves for Wisconsin children, UW-Eau Claire will once again host the Summer Food Service Program.
According to the USDA, the program, which began in 1968, provides free, nutritious meals and snacks to low-income children throughout the summer months when they cannot get their lunches at school.
SFSP continues a child’s physical and social development by providing nutritious meals during long vacation periods from school.
Amy Kolano has been the Summer Food Service coordinator for the Wisconsin Department of Public Instruction for the last 14 years. She said the SFSP helps children when they don’t have easy access to food, like they do in school.
“The program feeds children when they are on vacation or home from school,” Kolano said. “This is when families might be strapped for money.”
A university news release said the program feeds children under the age of 18, but meals and snacks are also available to persons with disabilities over the age of 18 who participate in school programs for those who are mentally or physically disabled.
SFSP is a USDA federal food assistance program administered by the Wisconsin Department of Public Instruction.
In 2011, 39 percent of children enrolled in Wisconsin public schools qualified for free or reduced price school lunches, according to data provided by the Wisconsin Department of Public Instruction.
Forty percent qualified for the same program within the Eau Claire school district. Longfellow Elementary School had the highest rate, with 79 percent of children meeting the requirements.
Kolano said she is not surprised by these numbers because the SFSP has been growing every year.
“The program has grown a lot because our economy in the last five years has taken a turn for the worse,” she said.
Nationally, more than 26 million children eat school lunch and about half of them receive their meals free or at a reduced price, according to the Wisconsin Department of Public Institution.
The SFSP served more than two million meals at 661 sites operated by 158 sponsoring organizations during the summer of 2011, according to the Wisconsin Department of
The program at Eau Claire is sponsored by the Wisconsin Youth Success Program, Upward Bound, Blugold Beginnings and the Office of Multicultural Affairs.