The Summer Food Service Program, a federally funded summer lunch program administered by Alabama, is set to expire on June 30, drawing advocacy groups to urge the Alabama State Department of Education to extend the program through the rest of the summer.
Robyn Hyden, Executive Director of Alabama Arise, penned a letter Thursday to the state school Superintendent Eric Mackey urging him and the ALSDE to request federal permission to continue the meal program through the summer, which is allowed under The U.S. Department of Agriculture guidelines for the SFSP.
Other flexibilities in the program include:
- Permitting non-congregate meal service, which allows parents, guardians, or children to take meals from the pickup site and allows meal provision for multiple days at once.
- Allowing parents or guardians to pick up meals for their children.
- Allowing state flexibility in program monitoring.
“The June 30 end of the original waivers would happen right in the middle of summer food service. This could not be more problematic for both families and providers,” Wrote Hyden. “Changing food service operations, including the reimposition of on-site food consumption, would disrupt families’ work and child care arrangements and would require that providers completely alter how they feed children in midstream. Providers would have to try to communicate these changes, and the reason for them, adequately to children and their parents. We expect this would result in considerable confusion and frustration.”
According to Hyden, many SFSP providers will discontinue on July 1 if federal permission to extend the program is not requested. U.S Census data shows 15 percent of responding families with children said they sometimes or often did not have enough to eat, and 25 percent said their children sometimes or often are not eating enough due to food prices.
“School meals and the SFSP are critical for these families and their children,” Hyden said. “The SFSP waivers have been important during the pandemic, addressing health concerns, supply chain disruptions and community program disruptions caused by the health crisis and economic challenges. Keeping these flexibilities in place for the remainder of the summer will help feed children and help summer meal sites operate safely and efficiently. We urge you to apply for these waivers as quickly as possible, knowing that time is of the essence as providers and families complete their summer planning process.”