Letter from USDA to districts regarding summer meals

The following letter was received by the Maine DOE from the United States Department of Agriculture on June 3.

Dear Colleague:

Ensuring that America’s children have the proper nutrition to grow up healthy, learn, and reach their full potential is critical for delivering on the American promise of equal opportunity for all. Our nation has a long and impressive history of ensuring that those in need — especially children — have the food they need to thrive. Your leadership is needed to help ensure that children do not go hungry in your community this summer.

During the school year, over 21 million children receive free and reduced-price breakfast and lunch through U.S. Department of Agriculture’s (USDA) national school lunch program each day. But, when school is out, many children who rely on these school meals go hungry. USDA’s summer meal programs help children get the nutritious meals they need even when school is not in session. Unfortunately, the summer meal programs reach fewer than 4 million children nationally.

We need your leadership and assistance to let every family whose children and teenagers need meals this summer know how to find a summer meals site in their community. Please help in the following ways:

  1. Provide summer meals to children at your schools this summer. Local schools make great summer meal sites. Children and parents are familiar and comfortable with local schools providing nutritious food in a safe environment. Schools in low-income areas can be summer meal sites and fill an important meal gap for students, even if summer school is not offered at the school. For a comprehensive outreach toolkit, please visit http://www.fns.usda.gov/sfsp/summer-meals-toolkit-summer-meal-sites.
  2. Ask principals, teachers, and staff in your schools to share information about nearby summer meal sites. Schools communicate regularly and effectively with their students’ families. Please encourage them to connect their families with summer meal locations by visiting http://www.fns.usda.gov/summerfoodrocks or by calling 1-866-3-HUNGRY or 1-877-8-HAMBRE.
  3. Be a champion in your community. As a recognized leader, please share with other community leaders the importance of USDA’s summer meal programs to ensure children have the resources they need to succeed. Encourage local organizations to become summer meal sponsors or sites. Distribute flyers, postcards, and bookmarks about USDA’s summer meal programs and promote summer meals on your schools’ websites and in your schools’ e-mails. Digital and printable summer meals materials can be found at http://www.fns.usda.gov/sfsp/raise-awareness.

To learn more about the USDA summer meal programs, visit www.summerfood.usda.gov. In addition, the Food and Nutrition Service regional office staff is available to provide technical assistance and answer any questions you may have on USDA summer meal programs at the following link: http://www.fns.usda.gov/fns-regional-offices.

Thank you, as always, for your dedication and commitment to our children. By working together, we can ensure our children have the food and nutrition they need to grow and succeed.


Thomas J. Vilsack, Secretary of Agriculture
Arne Duncan, Secretary of Education

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