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Online Map Helps Families Find Summer Food Programs

While many children look forward to summer break each year, that’s not the case for all kids in the Ozarks. Public schools provide nutritional meals that many children don’t have at home. KSMU’s Chasity Mayes tells us how a new online map will lead struggling families to free meals during the summer.

A tough economy has left many Missourians questioning everything from how to pay their mortgage to where the next tank of gas will come from. But one thing the state’s Department of Health and Senior Services says people in Missouri shouldn’t have to stress over is nutritious meals for kids during the summer.

Janice Rambo is a nutrition specialist at the Bureau of Community Food and Nutrition.

“Right now with the economy the way it is and so many people unemployed it’s particularly critical this year and we’re really trying to focus on getting sponsors out there and providing meals for these children,” says Rambo.

During the regular school year, free and reduced lunch programs require paperwork and income verification, but summer programs are different. There are no income qualifications for children to receive free summer meals. Sites are established based on school lunch data for a particular area. If 50 percent of a school’s student population qualifies for free and reduced lunches, then that area is deemed low income and a site is created. Any child through the age of 18 can then come to that site for meals.

Children between the ages of 18 and 21 who are determined to be disabled and participate in a school based-program during the regular school year are also eligible to participate.

Rambo also says that the USDA provides reimbursement to sites that serve credible meals. She says there is a process to becoming a sponsor.

“A sponsor must be a non-profit or a government agency. So, it could be a school, it could be [a] non-profit such as Boys and Girls Club, YMCA [or] any other non-profit organization. And then the sponsor will set up sites. They can either do self prep of the meals or contract to get the meals provided by a vendor,” says Rambo.

All of the free meals provided during the summer must come either in a box or sack lunch type of container. This helps the site assure that each child is offered a meal that is well balanced.

The website, which helps families find “free meal sites” in their area, can be searched by city, county or zip code. The actual website is dhss.mo.gov/sfsp/. You can find a link from our website: KSMU.org. For families without access to the Internet, information is available by calling 888-435-1464.

For KSMU News, I’m Chasity Mayes.

dhss.mo.gov/sfsp/