Summer food program for kids looking for sponsors statewide

Federally funded program reimburses local hosts providing meals to kids through summer.

Since 1989, the Office of Superintendent of Public Instruction’s Child Nutrition Services has been running a state-wide, federally funded summer food service program for kids.

The program enables kids 18 years old and younger to receive free food throughout the summer. Throughout the year, students from low-income families can receive free or reduced-cost breakfasts and lunches from the school, and this program enables that nutritious help to continue during the long school break, said Donna Parsons, director of Child Nutrition Services.

In order to keep this program running, though, sponsors are needed.

Sponsors can be any local nonprofit organization willing to provide meals to children throughout the summer that meet the nutrition guidelines; the organizations will then be reimbursed the cost of sponsoring this program. They must also be located in areas where at least 50 percent of the children are qualified for or enrolled in programs for free or reduced-price school meals.

Parsons said many school districts sponsor the program, as well as local city or county governments, the Salvation Army, churches and other organizations. The department will also work with local organizations to ensure the whole summer is covered; she said perhaps a school district will sponsor the program in June and July when summer school is in session, and another organization will take over in August.

“Sometimes we try and pair people up,” Parsons said. “We have a lot of ways to figure it out; we would help people.”

Though the idea is to help low-income families supplement nutritious meals for the children, because the program qualifies the sponsor, not the child, anyone 18 and younger can receive free meals.

Up to two meal types per day per child may be served at the site, or three meal types for sponsors serving primarily migrant children and residential camp sites. All meals must meet USDA meal pattern requirements, and can be made by the sponsors or purchased from a school district or food service management company. All eligible meals served are reimbursed.

To be a sponsor for the first time, someone from the organization would have to call Child Nutrition Services at 360-725-6200. They will then be walked through the process of applying and receive training. Parsons said typically the applications are handed it by May each year.

For families, the locations of nearby sites for food will be available online, or by calling a toll free number that will be advertised near the time the program starts.

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Michelle Beahm is the online editor for the Kitsap News Group. She can be reached at