FAU Helps Local Students Receive Meals Over Summer

For the last eight years, FAU’s Weppner Volunteer Center has helped organize the Summer Food Service Program in the Boca Raton, Delray Beach and Deerfield Beach areas. This national program provides free or reduced-price meals to children of low-income families who attend sponsored summer camps, similar to programs in place during the school year.

“If they qualify [for the program] during the school year, they qualify no matter where they go for camp,” Carol Entress of Palm Beach County School District’s School Food Service division says.

To qualify for the program, the annual income for the household in which the child lives must fall below a certain amount. For the upcoming summer, a family of four must make $37,000 or less annually before taxes for a reduced-price meal, and $26,000 or less for a free meal; the income for a family of six must be below $49,580 for reduced-price and below $34,840 for the free meal program. These requirements are set by the Department of Agriculture and are applicable to each of the continental United States; in Alaska and Hawaii, the maximum qualifying income is higher.

At the national level, the amount of money Congress appropriates for the program grows steadily every year. According to the U.S. Department of Agriculture the latest national data shows that $295.3 million was appropriated for the program in 2005. The Florida Department of Education funds 70 percent of the state program through a grant.

FAU does its part to support the Summer Food Service Program by collecting monetary donations from local businesses and individuals, and by completing the necessary paperwork which keeps the program running, Sara McHale of the Weppner Volunteer Center says.

More than 650 local students ages 18 and under will benefit from this program in 2007 alone. Participating camps include the Boys and Girls Club, G.A.T.E. Salvation Army, Milagro Center, City of Deerfield at Park Ridge Elementary, Youth Activity Center, Pearl City Cats and West Side Park Recreational Center, all of which offer free enrollment to every child.

For children who do not plan on attending summer camp, “feeding sites” are also available, Entress says. These sites offer free meals to any school-age student regardless of household income.

For more information about the Summer Food Service Program, please contact the FAU Weppner Volunteer Center at (561) 297-3607.