Local libraries participate in Summer Food Service for children –
Story and photo by Patricia Beech –
Congressman Brad Wenstrup joined a younger crowd Tuesday morning, June 28 at the North Adams Public Library for story time and lunch with the Summer Food Service Program (SFSP).
Wenstrup read “Fourth of July Fireworks” by Patrick Merrick to the children. Afterward he talked about Independence Day and the history of fireworks and what they symbolize for Americans.
“Congressman Wenstrup was looking at the Food Service Program and how it’s working out for us, and how we can make it better,” said Julie McCane-Knox, Programmer at the NA Library. “He thought we were doing well and he was especially intrigued by how we are making it work for our community since we’re in a rural area.”
The USDA’s food service program ensures that low-income children continue to receive nutritious meals when school is not in session.
Acting as sponsor for the library’s food service program, the Manchester School District prepares and delivers the food to all four branches every day.
“We have some great community partners here in Adams County that help facilitate the Summer Food Service Program (SFSP) for kids who otherwise might have limited access to good, healthy meals,” said Wenstrup. “As part of our Better Way initiative, House Republicans have put forward ideas to maximize the effectiveness of SFSP, including more flexibility, more accountability, and new ways to meet the educational and nutritional needs of our children.”
Across the nation, approximately 22.1 million students receive free and reduced-price meals through the National School Lunch Program. But only about 1 in 6 of those (approximately 3.8 million) participate in the summer meals programs, according to the USDA.
“Our Summer Food Program is going very well so far,” said Nick Sloan, Director of the Adams County Library. “Our biggest challenge so far is getting the word out, but overall it’s been very successful and we’re excited to continue in the future.”
The library has been advertising the program on its web page and on Facebook, through word-of-mouth, and by handing out informational fliers.
“Many children face food insecurity over the summer months. They rely on free lunches during the school year, and that goes away when school lets out,” said Sloan.
Studies have revealed that many children experience a “summer slide” – the tendency to lose some of the achievement gains they made during the previous school year.
“When kids hit the “summer slide” they began to lose a good chunk of the information they learned throughout the school year,” Sloan explained. “That’s why every year they have to go through a period of review.”
Sloan believes that libraries can play a unique role in helping children avoid the “summer slide” by combining the SFS program with the library’s resources.
“Studies have shown if children are engaged during the summer, if their minds are engaged with something like the Summer Reading Program they retain the information they learned in school much better.”
The libraries are working toward combining these two resources by scheduling their summer programs to compliment the food service program.
“We had already set up many of our program schedules before getting on board with the Food Service Program,” says Sloan. “But next year, we will schedule activities directly before and after lunch. When that happens the lunch attendance goes up and so does enrollment in the Summer Reading Program.”
Many of the children in the food program choose to participate in the library’s summer programs even if they are not timely.
“Even when the programs are two to three hours after lunch, the kids are sticking around,” says Sloan. “They’re using computers, and checking out books, so these two programs are working together very effectively.”