State prepares to tackle food insecurity with summer nutrition program

BATON ROUGE, La. (BRPROUD) – The new year is when the Louisiana Department of Education and Department of Agriculture and Forestry (DOAF) begin preparing for summer. Their mission is to make sure no child goes hungry.

“Without this program, many children will starve to death, and that’s the bottom line,” said Louisiana Department of Agriculture and Forestry Commissioner Mike Strain.

Strain said now was the time to strap in and find sponsors for their 2022 summer nutrition program.

“It’s so important to start early so that we don’t have a gap and a period of time, weeks to a month or more, when these kids don’t have access to lunch,” Strain said.

Sponsors are needed to help with the cost of obtaining, preparing and serving food.

“School systems play a role and if schools choose not to, then other parish government entities can. If they choose not to do so, private non-profit organizations can do so,” he explained.

The Louisiana Department of Education said in a press release:

Sponsors must be able to provide competent staff, management skills and catering capabilities. A sponsor can provide their own meals, purchase meals through an agreement with a local school, or contract meals with a food vendor..”

Nearly 500,000 students across the state rely on daily meals, however, when school is closed, meals are no longer available. The Strain department manages the storage and distribution of food.

“In conjunction with the USDA, Department of Education, and school entities, we are all working together to make this program work,” he said.

The need is even higher as COVID-19 and inflation plague the country.

“We have the highest inflation for 40 years in all areas. We think this is going to put a lot of pressure on family budgets,” he said.

Students 18 and under are entitled to meals. Apps are accepted until April 15 for those wishing to participate in the 2022 summer dining program.

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