How Libraries Can Help
Hungry kids don’t read. According to a survey of teachers by Share Our Strength’s No Kid Hungry campaign, childhood hunger remains a serious obstacle to learning. Hungry kids can’t concentrate, they do poorly in school, and they don’t participate successfully in summer reading programs and other library activities.
Every summer when school ends, millions of kids and teens are at risk of going hungry without access to the free or reduced-price meals they receive in school. The USDA’s Summer Food Service Program (SFSP) provides free healthy meals to children and youth in communities with high rates of poverty. Many Ohio libraries already participate as SFSP sites, or provide programming to other SFSP sites in their communities.
However, the SFSP is among the most underutilized government programs. As few as 1 in 10 eligible Ohio students receive food through the SFSP. An alarming number of kids may have inadequate access to food during the summer. When school is out, these kids also lack the other support school offers, including engagement, learning, supervision, a safe and temperature-controlled environment – things libraries can provide.
Your library can be part of the solution to childhood hunger in Ohio. Become an SFSP site, become an SFSP sponsor, partner with existing sites, publicize the program and/or connect your young patrons to the program. Learn more below.
Become an SFSP Site
Open program sites are locations serving low-income areas where at least half of the children come from families with incomes at or below 185% of the Federal poverty level, making them eligible for free and reduced-price school meals. Meals are served free to any child up to 18 years old at the open site. A site may serve 1 or 2 meals, a meal and a snack, or just a snack daily. Library meeting rooms and outdoor areas on library grounds are great program sites. Libraries can incorporate their Summer Library/Reading Program and other fun, literacy-based activities. Sites incur no monetary cost unless they choose to invest in materials for enrichment programming, books to give away to attending children, etc.
- Find out if your area is eligible for SFSP by using the USDA capacity builder map.
- After the map loads, search for or zoom to your community.
- Under “Operational Layers,” click on “FY18 FNS CACFP SFSP Eligibility” to see if all or part of the area you serve is eligible. You may also click on “Summer_Meal_Sites_2018” to see if program sites exised in your community, and on “Libraries” to pinpoint your location and that of neighboring libraries.
- If you serve an eligible area, identify and contact a local sponsor about becoming a site. Find SFSP sponsors using the Ohio Department of Education’s SFSP map.
- For further information, or if there is no sponsor in your area, contact one of the SFSP specialists listed under ‘Contact Information’ on the Ohio Department of Education’s Office for Child Nutrition website.
- If you’d like to explore library-specific possibilities for SFSP, contact Library Consultant Janet Ingraham Dwyer at firstname.lastname@example.org.
Become an SFSP Sponsor
Sponsors handle the financial, administrative and food service responsibilities to run the SFSP in an area. Sponsors may contract with food service providers and do not have to prepare the food themselves. Sponsors are reimbursed for all expenses by the USDA.
- Search for existing sponsors in your area using the Ohio Department of Education’s SFSP map. The listing for each SFSP site includes a record of its sponsor
- If there is no sponsor in your area, consider becoming a sponsor. Complete the Potential Sponsor Survey to get started. The Ohio Department of Education Office for Child Nutrition will contact you with further information.
- The USDA offers a succinct overview of how to become a sponsor.
- For more information on becoming a sponsor, contact one of the SFSP specialists listed under ‘Contact Information’ on the website Ohio Department of Education’s Office for Child Nutrition website.
Partner with Sites
Library partners provide outreach programming, bookmobile or lobby stop-style service, book giveaways, or other support to existing sites in your community.
- Use this tool from the Ohio Department of Education to search for existing sites and sponsors. Contact a local site or sponsor to offer to partner.
- If no sites exist in your community, consider becoming a site yourself! See above for details.
Publicize Your Local SFSP Site
- Request free bookmarks provided by the Ohio Department of Education to help your library patrons find local SFSP sites.
- See the USDA Summer Food Service Program site for a wealth of resources to help communities publicize the availability of summer food programs.
- Download outreach materials from Share Our Strength (flyers, posters, yard signs, et cetera). Many are customizable.
- Download an Ending Child Hunger library flyer (note: unlike the other items in this list, this flyer is targeted to library staff, not the general public).
Refer young patrons to local SFSP sites. Tools for finding sites include:
- A clickable statewide map of Ohio sponsors and sites
- A hotline: 1-866-3-HUNGRY
- A text-based location service: text FOOD to 877-877
- The WhyHunger website
- The Range mobile app
- Beyond Food for Fines: Libraries, Food Banks and Feeding America – webinar recording and a helpful collection of resources and links compiled by WebJunction. Registration is required to view the recording. Registration is free, and gives you access to WebJunction courses and webinar archives. Registration is not required to view the webinar slides, transcript, or related resources and links.
- USDA Summer Food Service Program website
- USDA Summer Meals Toolkit
- Ohio Department of Education: Summer Food Service Program
The ODE is the program administrator of the SFSP in Ohio.
- Ohio SFSP Program Overview for libraries
- Team Vittles – group of librarians dedicated to promoting the Summer Food Service Program and other food security programs across Ohio. Began as a team project through ILEAD USA Ohio in 2017.
- Providing Meals for Adults – a compilation of ideas from Lunch at the Library, for libraries wishing to to provide food for adult parents and caregivers, who are not eligible to receive meals through SFSP.
- “Free Lunch at the Library” by Catherine Saint Louis, a New York Times feature article (7/30/17) featuring Marysville Public Library and the Elmwood Place Branch, Public Library of Cincinnati and Hamilton County.
Participating Libraries (Ohio)
Dozens of Ohio public libraries already serve as program sites. Learn more about some of them:
- Athens County Public Library
- Columbus Metropolitan Library
- Garnet A. Wilson Library of Pike County
- Marion Public Library
- Public Library of Cincinnati and Hamilton County
Participating Libraries (Nationwide)
- Lunch at the Library – California – this site features a toolkit for libraries, and access to a listserv to ask questions of other librarians and share ideas about summer meal programs.
- Fueling the Mind – Kenton County, KY
- To Be Well Read…You Must Be Well Fed – New York
- Texas Public Libraries and the SFSP
Feeding Ohio’s Children
The Ohio Association of Foodbanks operates several additional programs, such as Mobile Farmers Markets and the Summer Weekend Meals Program, that provide healthy food for children in Ohio. Learn more about these food programs.
Summer Nutrition Toolkit
The Food Research and Action Center, a national nonprofit organization working to eradicate hunger and undernutrition in the United States, has developed a toolkit to help with outreach about SFSP.
For more information or assistance with any aspect of library participation in SFSP, please contact Janet Ingraham Dwyer, Library Consultant, at 614-644-6910 or email@example.com. Thank you for your library’s involvement in supporting the well-being of the children of your community, and ending child hunger in Ohio.
The USDA is an equal opportunity provider and employer.