NORFOLK, Va. (WAVY) — The Summer Food Service Program in Virginia kicked off Thursday afternoon in Norfolk with a visit from Virginia First Lady Dorothy McAuliffe.
Along with federal, state and local government representatives, McAuliffe joined children and families at Coleman Place Elementary School — one of more than 50 locations across the city where kids and teens can get free meals during the summer.
The meals are meant to bridge the gap for students from low-income families when school is out. But many don’t know about the program, and when they do, it’s hard for kids to get to the places where meals are being served. In fact, in Virginia, only 17.6 percent of children who get free lunches during the school year are taking advantage of the summer meals program.
So First Lady Dorothy McAuliffe is trying to break down those barriers. She said the governor recently signed a proclamation declaring June 5 as the start of the program.
“For the past several months, we’ve been working with the USDA, Department of Health, Education and Social Services along with community partners across the state to sign up more sponsors than ever before,” McAuliffe said.
During her speech, she recognized Norfolk Public Schools Nutrition Director Helen Phillips for the district’s distinct honor as “Summer Meals Champion.” She said the district has been an outstanding partner for the summer meals program.
Mrs. McAuliffe also addressed a related initiative she’s involved with.
“A commitment from the Virginia Association of Broadcasters to launch a year-long hunger awareness campaign on July 1st is a huge step forward,” she said. “The initiative will be called ‘Feeding Virginia,’ and the broadcasters have asked me to serve as a spokesperson for the campaign.”
Dallas Cowboys Defensive End Everette Brown engaged the students in a game about food groups. But he told WAVY.com nutrition is no game when it comes to the health and well-being of children.
“[This] will give kids the opportunity to continue to eat healthy and get the nutrients and the dairy they need that they will get through the school year,” Brown said. “Now they’ll have this opportunity to get through the summer, which makes it a year-round program.”
Brown serves as an ambassador for the NFL’s Fuel Up Play 60 initiative.
Families interested in the summer meals program can text “food” to 877-877 or call 1-866-3-HUNGRY to find the closest feeding location to them.