During the school year, many children receive free lunches at school. When school lets out for the summer, that often means kids go hungry. That’s where the USDA Summer Food Service Program (SFSP) steps in. During the summer, any child ages 0-18 can eat lunch a SFSP site. Public libraries make ideal sites, since they are natural gathering places for children during summer reading programs! As a meal service site, libraries do not prepare the food, they simply offer a place for children to eat.
This year, two North Dakota libraries were involved in the SFSP. The Grand Forks Public Library SFSP site is sponsored by the St. Joseph’s Social Care and Thrift Store. They served lunch Monday through Friday for eight weeks. The Grand Forks Public Library has participated as SFSP site for two years. The Morton Mandan Public Library participated as a site for the first time this year. Lunch was served in Dykshoorn Park Monday through Friday for nine weeks.
Linda Austin, Children’s Program Coordinator at The Morton Mandan Public Library, also organized 34 programs to tie in to this year’s summer reading theme. “Lunch with Heroes” featured different heroes from the community, and included the Fire Department, Police Department, National Guard, nurses, doctors, Humane Society, musicians, crafters, gymnasts, and many more. Heroes provided a short program that highlighted their role in the community. On average, 77 children attended each program. First Lady Betsy Dalrymple also participated by reading to the children and giving away books provided by the United Way. To learn more about the program in Mandan, check out the article in the Bismarck Tribune.
For information on the importance of the SFSP program, and to learn what libraries in other states are doing, check out the article “Eat Up! 5 Public Libraries’ Successful Summer Meals Programs.” To learn more about getting involved in the SFSP in North Dakota, visit the Department of Public Instruction’s Child Nutrition & Food Distribution website. We would love to see more libraries participate!