ENID — Oklahoma State Depart­ment of Education is seeking sponsors to support the Summer Food Service Program, which helps keep lower-income kids across the state from going hungry over the summer break.

When school ends in May, many children who depend on free or reduced-price lunch programs are down one meal a day until a new semester starts up in August.

Offering meals at no cost to kids, the Summer Food Service Program is able to bridge the summertime gap, but only in the communities where organizations step up to sponsor it, by providing a location for kids to go and food to be served.

“Sponsors are critical to the success of the Summer Food Service Program. We are grateful for our returning sponsors and encourage new sponsors to join us in fighting childhood hunger and the so-called ‘summer slide,’” State Superintendent Joy Hofmeister said. “The summer food program ensures that when children go back to school in August, they do so ready to learn, with healthy minds and bodies.”

Eligible sponsors include public or government agencies, and private, nonprofit residential summer camps, and private nonprofit organizations, according to the OSDE.

Sponsors are given financial assistance to cover the costs of obtaining food, preparing it and serving it. Administrative costs are included as well, OSDE said.

Oklahoma Edge, the state department’s 8-year strategic plan, has benchmarks in place to measure success regarding child nutrition. Strides have been made in this area but many communities still do not offer the summer food program because there are no sponsors.

Children 18 and under can get a free meal from any SFSP site, OSDE said, as can those 19 years and up with a mental or physical disability who participate in either a public or private nonprofit program, which is related to their disability, during the school year.

To sponsor the Summer Food Service Program, contact Dee Houston at (405) 522-4943 or (405) 420-9367, or email dee.houston@sde.ok.gov.

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