School’s out for the summer! For many kids, summer is filled with pool days, summer camp, and popsicles; however, for thousands of kids in Allegheny County, summer can also mean no school meal and for those struggling with food insecurity, the lack of a free school meal can be impactful. It is estimated that 70,000 students in Allegheny County qualify for free or reduced lunch during the school year. During the summer months, many of those students go without meals. To help fill the gap, organizations like the Greater Pittsburgh Community Food Bank, a Live Well Allegheny Community Partner, support local distribution sites of the Summer Food Service Program.
The Summer Food Service Program (SFSP) is a national program of the USDA that provides free meals to kids in the summer months. SFSP ensures that low-income children receive nutritious meals when school is not in session. Through the program, local sponsors like churches and community organizations provide meals and activities to children ages 18 and under.
Allegheny County boasts nearly 300 distribution sites. The distribution sites, which range from churches to parks, provide free summer meals and fun activities to Allegheny County youth throughout the summer months. The Greater Pittsburgh Community Food Bank’s SFSP outreach initiative seeks to increase participation in the program by offering information, best practices, marketing support, and technical assistance to local sites.
To increase youth participation, the Greater Pittsburgh Community Food Bank collaborates with partners to support sites in providing activities during meal times. The Summer Food Toolkit, developed by United Way’s fitUnited, Let’s Move Pittsburgh, and Live Well Allegheny, was created to aid sites in facilitating fun educational activities. The toolkit offers curriculum and activities related to nutrition education, physical activity, and safety.
Wondering how you can find a summer food site near you? To find a site in your neighborhood, text “FOOD” to 877-877 or call 2-1-1 for the United Way hotline to hear site locations and meal schedules. You can also visit USDA’s Summer Meal Site Finder to find a site in your community.