As summers roll around and schools wrap up for the year, there is focus on making sure those children and their families have enough to eat throughout the summer. Josh Perkins, Director of Food and Nutrition for Madison Metropolitan School District (MMSD), says families in his community rely on the nutrition that’s offered through the school for day-to-day-sustenance. He explains how they’re preparing to fill that need.
“The summer meal programs that we offer help households to continue to receive those nutritional benefits,” says Perkins. “It’s really important as big segments of our community rely on that nutrition as a regular feature of life and when school is interrupted it’s important that we don’t interrupt that nutrition form to those in need.”
During the pandemic, there were many food service restrictions and public health orders. This affected how Perkins was supplying food for his district’s families as well as the way he accounted for the meals. Post pandemic he says there is a slight decline in the number of students enrolled in their summer program.
He adds, ‘One thing we really want to emphasize to the community is that this programming isn’t just for those who are enrolled in our school. We are offering these meals to any student ages 18 and younger who needs it.”
MMSD has served fresh produce in their summer meals for many years now and have been working with their partner, Seasonal Harvest, to improve their local buying. This year they are going to be beneficiaries of $10,000 in local foods for school funds to continue their efforts of providing fresh and local produce to their students.
“A lot of the activities within the coursework in our district has to do with gardening, understanding where your food comes from, and the impact of your well-being that comes from eating the freshest possible food,” says Perkins. “So making sure to have those partnerships be as strong as possible, allows us not only to have the fresh produce, but to help connect the students with where it’s coming from.”
With inflation being an issue for many, Perkins says they are working to combat it by reducing their waste. They are looking at ways they can use the ingredients they have in a variety of ways in order to be responsive to cost changes and increases.
Other Summer Meal Resources:
USDA Summer Meals Map – Text FOOD to 304304
United Way – Text your zip code to 898211