Y’s SFSP Keeps Children Fed During Summer

Neighborhood kids line up for their first healthy free lunch as part of the East Boston YMCA's Summer Food Service Program last week during the Y's annual Beach Day celebration.

Neighborhood kids line up for their first healthy free lunch as part of the East Boston YMCA’s
Summer Food Service Program last week during the Y’s annual Beach Day celebration.

With school out and summer in full swing, children that receive free or reduced breakfast and lunches during the school year may be out of a meal if it wasn’t for the Summer Food Service Program (SFSP) sponsored by the East Boston YMCA.

The Y kicked off the summer season with its annual Beach Day and the official launch of the SFSP last Tuesday .

The SFSP is a federally funded program operated nationally by the USDA and administered by the Massachusetts Department of Elementary and Secondary Education through Eastie based Project Bread.  The SFSP provides free meals to children 18 and under while school is out for the summer.  The program fills the gap experienced by kids who eat free or reduced price meals during the school year.

The Summer Food Program here is supplemented by a $20,000 grant from the Walmart Foundation to the Y. Combining food and fun, the program will provide nutritious meals and snacks, plus activities to keep kids’ minds and bodies active.

“The SFSP is a god-send for the thousands of young people who depend on school meals for most of the year. Without this program, many of these children would lack the nutritious foods they need for their healthy development during the summer months,” said East Boston Y Executive Director Joey Cuzzi. “This year, thanks to Walmart’s generous donation, children who participate in the program will receive healthy food and enriching educational activities to engage their minds.”

According to USDA, Latino children make up the largest share of American children living in food insecurity, yet they participate in nutrition assistance programs at the lowest rates.

“This is the Y’s ninth year as a program sponsor,” said Cuzzi, “and, unfortunately, we’ve seen the need for free food programs in our community grow dramatically during that time.  The SFSP provides a guarantee of available food, so we can help families provide for their children during the school vacation months.”

The SFSP in East Boston has 11 sites, all open to the public. The program runs through August 31.

The East Boston SFSP locations are: Ashley Street Y; Brandywyne Village; Bremen Street Park; Bremen Street Y (Weekend teen nights) Constitution Beach; East Boston Central Catholic School; Paris Street Recreation Center; Piers Park Sailing Center; Martin Pino Community Center; and Salesians Boys & Girls Club. Check the ad in today’s East Boston Times for a complete schedule of meal times.

In addition to distributing the meals, the teens will also supervise arts and crafts activities and games for the children after they have their breakfast, lunch or snack.

To date, the program has served over 140,000 meals (combination of breakfast, lunch and snacks) throughout the Y’s 21 locations across the city. It is expected that by the end of the summer more than 125,000 meals will be served.

The SFSP is administered at the federal level by the Food and Nutrition Service (FNS), an agency of the U.S. Department of Agriculture. . The YMCA has been an approved sponsor of the program since 2005.

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