Since June 13 Surry County Schools have served a total of 25,000 meals and snacks to children ages 2 through 18 as part of the Summer Food Service Program.
“We think that’s a pretty big deal,” Sherri Parks, director of child nutrition, said of the meals served thus far. She added that with current projections, she isn’t ruling out the possibility of serving another 15,000 meals and snacks by the end of the summer.
According to Rodney Dockery, child nutrition supervisor, the busiest week for the program to date was the June 20 through June 24.
The initiative is a federal program, an extension of the National School Breakfast and Lunch program, and is sponsored through USDA.
Franklin Elementary School serves double duty as both a preparation site for the meals and snacks as well as an open site where kids are able to show up between 11 a.m. and noon to receive a free meal without having to provide any sort of eligibility material.
Franklin Elementary was selected as the base since 50 percent or more of the students that attend the school receive free or reduced lunches.
In addition to the open site, there are numerous other locations and programs that are provided food through the Summer Food Service Program, including summer schools, STEM programs, Surry Parks and Recreation. In total there are 26 sites throughout Surry County that receive meals and snacks as part of the program.
“What is so great is the collaboration and cooperation among our staff that work together for the benefit of the children,” Parks said of the summer effort.
Parks said that a lot of planning goes into creating both a nutritious and delicious summer meal pattern, adding that everyone tries to keep in mind what the kids would like to eat.
Foodstuffs range from pepperoni pizza, chicken filet sandwiches, combo subs and grilled chicken salads, with sides including baked chips, baby carrots, garden salads and strawberry cups. Snacks include things like Goldfish crackers, Sun Chips and Strawberry Pop-Tarts, with juice boxes.
“It’s a pretty complicated program,” Parks said.
Due to the fact that the meals aren’t typically prepared and served at the same location, Parks explained that “being mobile is quite a challenge,” especially considering the hot summer months.
The individuals that work to prepare the meals and snacks are paid employees of the county who work throughout the school year as school nutrition workers.
Parks said that a lot of detail goes into operating the program considering the fact that USDA provides the funding for the program, explaining that detailed daily meal and snack counts are required.
Aug. 8 is the end date of the Summer Food Service Program, Parks explained that in years past participation in the program drops during August. In addition to reduced participation, Parks said that time is needed to prepare for the upcoming school year, which starts on Aug. 29.
Parks said this is the third continuous year of the program, noting that the school system operated the same program several years earlier, but later ceased operations.