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The Department of Education is seeking sponsors for the Summer Food Service Program

Delaware Department of Education
State of Delaware

With summer around the corner, the Department of Education is looking for more sponsors for the state’s Summer Food Service Program.

The federally-funded program is administered by DOE. Its purpose is to bridge the gap experienced by low-income children who rely on school breakfast and lunches during the school year.

Aimee Beam, Education Associate for Nutrition Programs, says they are currently looking for more sponsors to operate program sites across the state.

With DOE support, they will be responsible for preparing and distributing food to children who participate in school lunch programs.

“Our sponsors include school districts, charter schools, private schools, non-profit entities, and government agencies. Each of those may just have one site, or 50, 60, 70 sites. They’re all different. We determine eligibility for sites based on federal regulations, and we’re in that process right now.”

She says it's difficult to tell whether factors such as rising food prices, ongoing supply chain issues, and the loss of emergency food benefits will impact the number of program participants at this time.

The Food Bank of Delaware has noted it is seeing increased demand for their services, and worries students losing access to school-provided breakfast and lunch will deepen that demand during the summer.

Beam says there are other changes to the program this year, the biggest of which is the end of non-congregate food operations.

“We have been operating non-congregate throughout COVID under waivers. Those waivers have expired. But the USDA is now allowing summer food service sites in rural areas to potentially operate in a non-congregate fashion.”

Rural areas face accessibility issues. Children who could benefit from the program are more spread out, making them difficult to reach, and transportation is a challenge.

The Consolidated Appropriations Act included significant changes to federal child nutrition programming, including non-congregate meal services for rural areas beginning this summer.

The Department of Education is currently working to implement this option in rural areas in Delaware.

The Delaware Summer Food Service Program begins following the end of the school year.

Quinn Kirkpatrick was born and raised in Wilmington, Delaware and a graduated of the University of Delaware. She joined Delaware Public Media in June 2021