School has ended and so has breakfast and lunch for some children. Many children aren’t planning fun summer adventures or trips with friends. They’re wondering when they’ll be able to eat again. Every summer 2.3 million children receive free nutritious meals through the Summer Food Service Program (SFSP) nationwide. It is expected that 4,950 meals will be served this summer at the Foodbank’s two sites in the Northeast Kingdom. The sites in Canaan and West Charleston are busy readying for this year’s session. Meals are planned, activities are outlined and the kids are anxiously waiting to again have the food they need to fuel them for the summer fun that awaits.
Ilene Elliott, program director at the Canaan site, hurriedly enrolls children and braves the waters of scheduling buses to transport the kids. Currently, 60 children have signed-up to participate and more are registering daily. Her hand-picked staff of licensed teachers, who teach the activities, and paraeducators, who give extra attention to those who need are ready to go. Programming lasts all day, with sessions in the morning and afternoon. Each child has the opportunity to participate in every program offered.
Vermont Foodbank and program staff have high hopes for children who participate in SFSP. Our hope is that kids can be kids, not having to worry about where their next meal will come from. And we want kids to develop and grow healthy minds and bodies that are engaged and ready for the new school year. “I want the kids to look forward to the following school year and be more interested and engaged than they were previously. My hope is that program will level the playing field for them with their classmates in the coming year,” states Ilene.
Ilene is confident this will be the outcome. And it is because of SFSP that kids have this chance. Ilene reflected back to last year when she encountered a little boy who had a very high level of anxiety and insecurity about attending school and the summer program. He struggled with school and never felt at ease in that environment. The SFSP program staff built a structured plan for him and worked with him endlessly to ensure his comfort and keep him busy and involved. As time progressed, the boy looked forward to attending each day, and when school rolled around, Ilene found the child to be more engaged and comfortable around his classmates and in his studies.
Want to help kids in your community who might need food? Refer a child to a SFSP site by calling the National Hunger Hotline at 1-866-3-HUNGRY. Or contact the Foodbank’s youth program manager at 802-477-4126 or firstname.lastname@example.org.