Food program treats children to lunch during the summer

Some families are trying to figure out how to keep their kids busy this summer, while others are trying to figure out how to keep them fed.

Nevada is one of 11 states targeted by the U.S. Department of Agriculture for special assistance to improve access to summer meal programs. A June 11 kickoff event for the Summer Food Service Program at the Richard Steele Boxing Club, 2475 W. Cheyenne Ave., Suite 110, was attended by representatives from the USDA, local charities and the Nevada government.

“Three Square and the Culinary Academy of Las Vegas are here trying to raise awareness of summer food services sites in the valley,” said Jodi Tyson, government affairs director for Three Square food bank. “There are links on Three Square’s website that will help you find the nearest location. There is also a phone number and a texting number. If you text ‘Summernv’ and the ZIP code to 877877, it will text back the nearest site of the Summer Food Service Program.”

The Summer Food Service Program provides free, nutritious meals to youths 18 or younger at approved sites throughout the valley. The program also ensures that children who receive free and reduced-price meals during the school year won’t go hungry in the summer.

“There’s a lot of poor kids who go to school here,” said Kevin Concannon, under secretary of the USDA Food, Nutrition and Consumer Services. “In Southern Nevada, during the school year, over 200,000 students get school meals. In the summer, that drops down to 40,000. That gives you an idea of the gap we’re trying to deal with.”

Concannon was in the midst of a multistate tour to kick off the program and meet the people who are dealing directly with the issue.

“I love coming out to these events because even though I get very involved in policy back in Washington, this is where you get reinforcement and see how it works,” he said. “I was glad to hear from several of the sponsors here that they’ve lined up more sites like this.”

Richard Steele, founder and executive director of the Richard Steele Foundation & Boxing Club, a nonprofit gym and education center, said that during the year, his gym provides meals three times a week.

“During the summer, it’s every day,” Steele said. “I’ve got kids out here from all over the valley, and they need this food.”

Concannon said the educational aspect of the gym was significant in terms of hunger.

“If a child’s stomach isn’t bothering him or he doesn’t have a headache from hunger, he’s going to learn better and show up for school more often,” Concannon said. “I wish this economy were in better shape, but while it isn’t, these programs are as important as they’ve ever been.”

To find Summer Food Service Program locations, visit threesquare.org or call 702-644-3663.

Contact East Valley View reporter F. Andrew Taylor at ataylor@viewnews.com or 702-380-4532.


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