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USDA’s summer food program kicks off in Nevada

When school-age children are out of school, those that come from less fortunate families have a hard time eating healthy meals routinely outside of a school setting.

To aid those children, the U.S. Department of Agriculture kicked off its annual summer meals program in Nevada Monday.

The program provides access to nutritious meals for children and teenagers, to ensure they have healthy options when they’re not at school.

“Summer is a crucial time for children and teens to continue pursuing their highest potential,” said Audrey Rowe, administrator of USDA’s Food and Nutrition Service (FNS). “Unfortunately, for millions of children and teens across the country, food insecurity threatens their ability to thrive when school is out and they don’t have access to free or reduced-price meals. USDA’s summer meals programs ensure that kids and teens have consistent access to healthy meals at no cost during the summer months and provide a safe, nourishing environment for kids and teens to learn and grow.”

In the U.S., almost 22.1 million children and teens receive free and reduced-price meals through the National School Lunch Program. Of those, only about 1 in 6, around 3.8 million kids, participate in the summer meals programs.

In an effort to fill a crucial gap in those able to partake in the program, the USDA and Nevada are working toward building stronger, healthier communities by fostering sustainability and expanding access to eligible children and teens in rural and urban areas.

This will allow the children to take part in summer opportunities and enable them to flourish when they return to class in the fall.

“The success of the summer meals programs is dependent upon support from local communities,” said Jesus Mendoza, Jr., USDA’s regional administrator. “Schools, libraries, hospitals, and a variety of nonprofit organizations play important roles as summer meal sites and sponsors ensure that children and teens in need have access to the healthy meals.”

Last summer almost 600,000 meals were provided to children and teens statewide. An estimated 12,000 children and teens received meals at more than 200 sites across the state.

To find one of the 16 locations in Nye County, visit the Summer Meal Site Finder, which is a free, web-based application that features a searchable map to help discover sites serving summer meals, at www.fns.usda.gov/summerfoodrocks.

Parents and caregivers can also identify nearby sites by calling 1-866-348-6479(English) or 1-877-842-6273 (Spanish) or using a text service operated by a USDA partner by texting FOOD (English) or COMIDA (Spanish) to 877-877.

The summer meal program is part of USDA’s continued efforts to ensure children and families have access to a healthy diet.

This year the USDA is expanding access to summer meals for youth 18 years and younger in underserved rural areas. Innovative partnerships and creative problem-solving have helped sites, sponsors, and other partners develop solutions to access issues, such as retrofitting buses and shuttles and partnering with AmeriCorps VISTA members, like NyE Communities Coalition in town.

Contact reporter Mick Akers at makers@pvtimes.com. Follow @mickakers on Twitter.

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