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State seeking new sponsors for Summer Food Service Program

A school lunch.

This week, the Missouri Department of Health and Senior Services opened applications for non-profit organizations that are interested in becoming sponsors for the Summer Food Service Program. From March 1 through May 15, qualified organizations can apply to be sponsors on the DHSS website With the help of a network of non-profit community sponsors, the SFSP currently provides meals to children in Missouri who would otherwise go without food during the summer months.

Across the state, thousands of children rely on free or reduced school meals as their main source of food. Each year, these children are left to wonder where their next meal will come from when school lets out for the summer. Missouri’s DHSS is hoping to help more of these children by creating new partnerships with local sponsors for the Summer Food Service Program.

In order for an organization to qualify as a SFSP sponsor, it must be a non-profit organization located in an area where at least half of the children are eligible to receive free or reduced-price school meals. In the greater Springfield area, community sponsor Ozarks Regional YMCA is preparing for another busy season of summer programs. According to Vice President of Youth Development Megan Outersky, the Summer Food Service Program is just one fraction of the services they offer.

“At the after-school programs, we provide snacks and/or meals to the students who are in our childcare. And then at the other locations for our summer day camps, we provide breakfast, lunch and a snack for anyone in attendance. But they're also considered open sites, which means anyone within the community of those programs under 18 can come in and get a meal free,” Outersky said.

Throughout the year, childhood food insecurity is a statewide issue. According toFeeding America, 19,070 children in Missouri face hunger – that’s one in seven. In rural areas like the Ozarks region, finding stable, affordable food access can be even more difficult for families. Because of this, reliance on community programs can be even more crucial.

“We fed over 135,000 meals and snacks in 2022. So, you know, the YMCA has been a long-standing partner and we serve, on a regular basis, about 1200 kids a year,” Outersky said.

As the state looks to expand its outreach with new Summer Food Service Program sponsors, current partners are left to prepare for another summer of serving their communities. This year, Outersky and the team at Ozarks Regional YMCA are ready to handle whatever the season has to throw at them.

“I wouldn't be surprised if we increased with the rising cost of just food and things in general. It would not surprise me if our numbers went up. And we certainly hope they do,” Outersky said. “We're here to feed kids and make sure that they're safe and healthy”.

Anna Spidel is a health reporter for the KBIA Health & Wealth desk. A proud Michigander, Anna hails from Dexter, Michigan and received her Bachelor of Arts in Journalism from Michigan State University in 2022. Previously, she worked with member station Michigan Radio as an assistant producer on Stateside.
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