Summer Food Service Program Returns to Derry

The SNHS – Southern New Hampshire Services – will hold its SFSP – Summer Food Service Program – for the second year in a row. While the program uses a lot of acronyms, its organizers are hoping that it will mean “alphabet soup” and more to children in families down on their luck.

SFSP provides federally-funded meals to low-income children over the summer, when they cannot access the schools’ Free and Reduced Price lunches. The Derry program operates in areas of town where the census has tracked 50 percent or more children qualifying for Free and Reduced Price lunches through the National School Lunch Program.

According to a fact sheet from SNHS, the area’s Community Action Program, in 2012 the organization served supper meals to children in or near the Fairways Apartments, Franklin Village Apartments, and Hood Park.

Early participation was slow, but increased toward the middle and end of summer, and the organization served 936 meals in Derry. The goal for 2013 is to increase participation, building on the customers for those first 936 meals.

Kathleen Devlin, director of Community Health and Nutrition Services, said SNHS has been offering summer food programs, with federal funds, for several years. “We had more than 50 sites in four counties,” she said.

While Derry was on its radar, she said, they couldn’t enter the town until last year, when more funding became available. “Derry was an expansion of our program,” she said.
For the Summer Food Program run by the U.S. Department of Agriculture, a qualifying site has to have 50 percent “free and reduced,” Devlin said. While Derry as a whole did not qualify, pockets of the town did, and SNHS was able to move in.

The Salvation Army was serving lunch to children over the summer, and SNHS rounded out the day with dinner. The dinners are simple but filling, Devlin said. Because it’s an outdoor outreach, the meal is cold and picnic-style. It follows the same guidelines as the school lunch program: a milk, a fruit and/or vegetable, a protein and a grain. As the meal is usually a sandwich, the grain is usually bread, Devlin said.

From her experience, she noted that it takes three years for a program to be fully established. Derry is going into its second year, and she hopes to see the word spread. “The kids were excited and happy to get their sack dinners,” Devlin said. The parents came around to the idea, but more slowly, she added. “In a small town it’s often, ‘Who are these people feeding my child?’” she said. A meeting of those involved with the project was held May 1, after Nutfield News went to press.