MMSD rolls out Summer Food Service Program

The federally-funded program provides breakfast, lunch and snacks to kids who rely on free school meals during the school year.
Updated: Jun. 21, 2021 at 5:49 PM CDT
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MADISON, Wis. (WMTV) - For families facing hunger, summer can be a difficult time. The school year ending means many kids lose access to free or reduced-price school meals. To help fill that gap, the Madison Metropolitan School District started its Summer Food Service Program Monday.

“These meals are what keeps them going throughout the school day,” explained Nichele Smith, MMSD director of food and nutrition services.

Food insecurity is not a new problem, but Smith said the pandemic created an even greater need. Even as the end of the pandemic nears, many families are still suffering from the impact of COVID-19.

“A lot of people lost their jobs, a lot of our students probably felt that effect,” Smith said.

MMSD’s Summer Food Service Program is intended to lessen that strain. Through the program, funded by the U.S. Department of Agriculture, families can pick up packaged breakfast and lunch meals every week, plus snacks and fresh fruits and vegetables.

“Our students will continue to have an ongoing nourishment throughout the school year, it doesn’t stop just because school is over within May or June,” Smith explained.

According to testimonials provided by MMSD, families have already described the service as “critical,” and Second Harvest Foodbank of Southern Wisconsin has seen that need reflected across the 16 counties they serve.

“It’s also eye opening the amount of people who struggled from paycheck to paycheck,” said Director of Marketing & Communications Kris Tazelaar.

According to data from Second Harvest and Feeding America, in those 16 counties, the number of children food insecure in May 2020 jumped 70 percent compared to 2019. The numbers have since trended down, but more than 40,000 kids continue to struggle with hunger, 12 percent higher than pre-pandemic levels.

“They really rely on those meals that the kids are getting at school,” Tazelaar said.

Tazelaar and Smith both said proper nutrition for kids during summer is essential to help them thrive inside and outside the classroom.

“It’s critical especially in those years when the kids are growing up,” Tazelaar said.

Smith added, “If you have a well-balanced meal, you’re able to concentrate more, you’re able to test-take more.”

Families can pick up food through MMSD’s Summer Food Service Program at several locations depending on the day and time. A full list of locations and schedules can be found on the district’s website. The program runs through August 13.

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