U.S.D.A. details changes to summer food program

by Eric Schroeder
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WASHINGTON — The U.S. Department of Agriculture has unveiled changes to its Summer Food Service Program (S.F.S.P.) aimed toward providing low-income children with access to nutrition assistance when school is out and during critical gap periods. According to the U.S.D.A., the changes will expand and enhance the ability of the S.F.S.P. to provide nutritious meals and snacks to children in low-income areas during the summer months and long vacation periods for schools on year-round schedules.

“When it comes to our kids, we must do everything we can to provide them with the nutrition they need to grow up and win the future,” said Undersecretary of Agriculture Kevin Concannon. “The changes we have made to the Summer Food Service Program will improve program efficiency and start to reduce unnecessary barriers for participation so that local S.F.S.P. sponsors who are on the frontlines of ending childhood hunger can provide nutrition assistance to those in need.”

Among the waivers announced by the U.S.D.A. are:

•Eliminate time restrictions between meal services, which gives sponsors added flexibility. Sponsors no longer will be required to ensure that specific time periods elapse between meals or snacks when they schedule meal services at each site.
•Extend the “Offer Versus Serve” option to all sites, which replaces the requirement that meals be provided as a unit with an alternative that allows children to decline food items they do not intend to eat.
•Simplify requirements to conduct site visits during the first week of meal service operations for sites in good standing.

The S.F.S.P. delivers nutrition assistance to about 3 million children at sponsored sites, including schools, government agencies, residential and non-residential camps and faith-based organizations. During 2010 the S.F.S.P. served nearly 134 million meals at eligible sites.

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