Summer Food Service Program seeks feeding sites

By AUTUMN HUGHES
Posted 4/15/18

With summer right around the corner, it’s time to think about keeping children healthy while school is out. Bradley-Cleveland Community Services Agency provides free meals to children during the summer. 

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Summer Food Service Program seeks feeding sites

Posted

With summer right around the corner, it’s time to think about keeping children healthy while school is out. Bradley-Cleveland Community Services Agency provides free meals to children during the summer. 

The Bradley/Cleveland Community Services Agency will again be sponsoring the Summer Feeding Program, which is administered in Tennessee by the Department of Human Services under an agreement with the U.S. Department of Agriculture. Meals will be provided to all children without charge. Acceptance and participation requirements for the program and all activities are the same for all regardless of race, color, national origin, gender, age or disability.

The program normally lasts about eight weeks, from the end of the current school year to the beginning of the new one.

BCCSA program coordinator Jackie Westfield said the Summer Food Service Program bridges the gap for children in danger of not having enough food when school is out.

Westfield works with organizations interested in providing a feeding site, and is hoping to add several sites in underserved areas, like the southeast 4th Street and the Blythe Avenue School areas. She is also willing to work with individuals who want to volunteer.

"Last year, we had 58 sites in two counties," Westfield said, adding the program serves both Bradley and Polk counties. "We ended up serving a little over 100,000 meals altogether.

Westfield said research shows "the kids' learning process for school is being interrupted during the summer months … due to the lack of nutrition."

During the school year, nutritious meals are available through the National School Lunch and School Breakfast Programs, but those programs end when school ends for the summer. SFSP helps fill the hunger gap. The program is available to help the children continue to learn grow and stay healthy. 

The program offers breakfast, lunch, snack and dinner, and participants may choose two of those options.

"We can even do evening meals" for vacation Bible schools and evening church services, she said. Participating in the program saves churches money on meals so funding can be used elsewhere.

Westfield said the program is for "any child that's able to eat table food." Participating sites must allow any child 18 years and younger to eat.

"We cannot feed adults," she said.

Westfield said it is a hard job to manage the program, but it is rewarding.

"We are getting geared up for the summer," she said, adding organizers are trying to reach more youngsters in Bradley and Polk counties who can benefit from the free program.

"For some kids this is the only regular meal they get all summer," she said.

Westfield said community centers, Boys & Girls Clubs, churches and housing complexes are among the participating feeding sites.

She added a site can be as informal as a picnic table under an awning, but organizers must have an alternate location in the event of extreme heat or weather.

For example, Charleston City Park has been a feeding site for a number of years and a nearby church is the alternate location when the weather is bad or it is too hot.

"We even have some sites that have one-day activities and we are able to provide meals for them," she said.

There are no income requirements for participation as a site; however, sites must be located in a low-income area. Churches, schools, camps, day cares and any other organization serving children in the summer may participate. Site may choose to serve up to two meals a day in any combination.

Westfield said her long-range vision goal is to start a Summer Food Service Program meal bus that can be driven to in different locations to allow children to get their meals and eat with supervision.

"We wish we could provide more meals out in the county," she said.

"Unfortunately we're not equipped to provide hot lunches," Westfield said. "But from time to time they offer a cookout menu, providing the food for the participating organizations to cook and serve.  It's really a special treat and the kids get very excited to do something different and fun."

Westfield hopes to finalize the list of feeding sites before the school year ends and share that information with the public. She added once school is out, the U.S. Department of Agriculture will offer an interactive map with meal sites, or her office will have that information.

If your organization would like to learn more about sponsoring a site, you are invited to contact Jackie Westfield at Bradley Cleveland Community Services Agency at 423-479-4111, Ext. 101.

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