The Summer Food Service Program provides USDA sponsored meals to children 18 and under throughout the community at no cost to participants. There are no signups, registrations, or income requirements for participants, and all families are welcomed. As of 2015 there was only one meal site in Berea, even though 100% of youth are eligible for free meals at school. Families rely on the school meal program to provide a significant portion of their children’s nutrition. During the summer months, hunger doesn’t take a vacation, and families often struggle with the financial burden of providing two or more extra meals for kids.
In 2016 Berea College and Grow Appalachia signed on as SFSP sponsors, and partnered with organizations and community groups to address this need. Year one, we served at over 12 sites, for a total of 78 days, and just under 14,000 meals to children in the community. We also partnered with local organizations such as the public library and county extension to offer fun and engaging educational opportunities which helped create more of a day camp experience for families. By providing a community meal experience at places such our local farmers market, community parks, and trusted churches, Berea SFSP met families where they were at, and make our program a true community event.
In 2017, Berea SFSP is expanding its site locations, and partnering with local organizations to offer educational programming at meal sites with special focus on environmental stewardship, STEM (Science, Technology, Engineering, and Math) education, gardening, and Health/wellness education. From smoothie blender bikes to community gardens, art camps and free community music concerts, our programming partnerships have made a real impact in our community. We recognize that there are many areas throughout Appalachia that could benefit from Summer Food Service, even though there are only a handful of sites and sponsors in this region and less than 1% of children have access to SFSP meals. As the year progresses, the Berea College/Grow Appalachia program aims to reach out to our partnering communities, to encourage and support more SFSP sponsorships, and ensure that we are doing everything we can to make sure that in Kentucky no kid goes hungry.