Petersburg school officials seek sites to feed children this summer


By Staff Report, The Progress Index

PETERSBURG — Petersburg school officials are seeking help to make sure no child in the city goes hungry this summer.

Petersburg City Public Schools is seeking community groups and sites to serve as summer locations where children can come for free breakfasts and lunches as part of Petersburg’s Summer Food Service Program.

“This school year will end June 15 but learning should never stop,” said Leigh Ann McKelway, a spokeswoman for Petersburg City Public Schools. “Good nutrition is important year-round so that children can continue to learn and grow, and the Summer Food Service Program helps with that. The Petersburg community embraced this program last summer, and we’re hopeful that additional groups will participate this summer to help children thrive.”

Camps, classes, daycare centers and other programs could serve as sites where Petersburg children who are 18 years old or younger can eat free breakfasts and lunches this summer.

The nutritious meals will be provided to the sites at no cost so that they can be provided to children at no cost. More than a dozen sites served 44,000 meals in Petersburg last summer, and the school system hopes to reach more children in more locations this summer.

During the school year, Petersburg schools provide free breakfasts and lunches for all students and will continue to do that in summer school programs.

Petersburg takes advantage of the United States Department of Agriculture’s Summer Food Service Program. The federal program aims to serve more than 200 million children at approved sites across the country.

In 2015, Dorothy McAuliffe, first lady of Virginia, announced an effort to team up with the national nonprofit Share Our Strength and the Virginia Department of Health, to improve access to SFSP programs.

“In Virginia, only 13 percent of children who receive a free or reduced-price lunch during the school year receive a meal each day through the SFSP,” McAuliffe said. “We can and must do more to increase participation in these programs and connect more kids with the healthy food they need every day.”

According to the governor’s office, one in six kids in Virginia will experience summer hunger.

Access to affordable food is an issue that plagues Petersburg. The city’s school division became eligible for the U.S. Department of Agriculture’s Community Eligibility Provision in 2014. The provision provides funding for schools with a high percentage of students qualifying for free and reduced price meals, to serve free meals.

According to the U.S. Department of Agriculture, the program reduces paperwork for families and schools because free and reduced lunch applications would no longer have to be processed. The department also said that the stigma of receiving free or reduced lunch is removed because all students eat for free under the provision.

May 31 is the deadline to apply to be part of the Summer Food Service Program. Community members and groups who believe that no child should be hungry are urged to contact Donna Johnson, supervisor of school nutrition, at dojohnson@petersburg.k12.va.us or 804-861-4806.

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