The Associated Press
The Summer Food Service Program is funded by the USDA Food and Nutrition Services and is sponsored by various school districts throughout the state, said Lenora Phillips with the Mississippi Department of Education.
“Good nutrition through the summer is essential for a growing child. The Office of Child Nutrition is focused on curbing food insecurities by helping to decrease hunger throughout the state of Mississippi,” said Scott Clements, director of Mississippi Department of Education’s Office of Healthy Schools and Child Nutrition.
Picayune School District Food Service Director, Debra Byrd, said the hot meals are being served at South Side Upper Elementary school.
Originally lunch was being served at Nicholson Elementary School and South Side Upper Elementary, but due to low participation at Nicholson, students participating in the program at the Nicholson site started being bused to the South Side Upper location, she said.
Byrd said participation in this year’s program has exceeded her expectations.
The Picayune School District also offers pre-packaged meals to participating churches with Vacation Bible Schools through the summer food program.
The Poplarville School District provided breakfast and lunch to students at the school district sponsored summer camp from June 3 - 21, said Gwen Seal, food service director for the Poplarville Special Municipal Separate School District.
Seal said unlike the free and reduced lunches that students apply for during the school year, the summer food service program is not based on a family’s income and is open to all school-age children.
Phillips said that during the regular school year, nutrition needs are met through the school lunch and breakfast program. In the summer, children may not have access to nutritious food. Reasons may be lack of funds to purchase food, misuse of household funds, lack of transportation to grocery stores that offer fresh fruit, vegetables and the list goes on and on. All of these factors together contribute to the state’s food insecurity and obesity rate, she said.
In the 15 days the program ran, Poplarville school district served 1,267 breakfasts and 1,350 lunches, Seal said. Community participation in the summer food program in Poplarville tends to be lower than other areas because of its rural location, she said.
“Hopefully we can do it next year and get more participation,” Seal said.
The Picayune school district has been participating in the federal program for 12 years and the Poplarville school district has been participating for about 10 years.
The USDA authorized the Summer Food Program in 1968, Phillips said.
A correction has been made to a story that ran on June 29 on the new federal guidelines. It was reported that students in kindergarten through eighth grade would receive six fruit and vegetable choices and high school student would receive seven fruit and vegetable choices.
Byrd said all students will get a choice of any three fruits or vegetables. Each serving of fruit or vegetables will be half a cup. Each student also will receive a bread, meat and diary choice along with the fruits or vegetables, she said.