Applications for the 2019 Arkansas Summer Food Service Program (ASFSP) will be processed in two phases, beginning in January, according to the Arkansas Department of Human Services (DHS).

The first period, only for schools and government sponsors, will open Monday, January 14, 2019.  All other provider applications will be accepted beginning Friday, February 15, 2019.  The deadline for all applications is April 30, 2019, according to a news release.

Funded by the United States Department of Agriculture, the Summer Food Service Program operates through DHS to provide healthy snacks and meals to children who receive free or reduced price lunches during the school year.

“The program ensures that these children have a nutritious weekday meal when school is out,” said DHS Health and Nutrition Program Administrator Tracey Shine.

“Unfortunately, USDA estimated that over 40 million people, including 12 million children, in the United States were food insecure in 2017.  That means 1 in 6 children lived without consistent access to adequate food.  Less than 15 percent of kids who qualify for free or reduced lunches during the school year are getting the same high-quality meals in the summer,” Shine said.

In 2018, the daily summer program provided more than 1.5 meals and snacks at 700 sites at a cost of $1.4 million.  Eligible participants include youth ages 18 and younger or persons over 18 who are mentally or physically handicapped and who participate in a public school for mentally or physically handicapped people, according to the release.

“Typically, schools and daycares are summer food providers, but any public or non-profit summer camps, community centers, churches, government agencies or similar groups can apply.  Providers will be asked to supervise the production, distribution and administrative tasks of their sites,” according to the release.

All meals and snacks must meet USDA nutritional guidelines.  USDA is an equal opportunity provider and employer.  All applicants must complete an eligibility process that includes free training and approval by DHS, USDA and the Internal Revenue Service.  Organizations that qualify will be reimbursed for costs of all meals and snacks served.

To find sites that assist children and adults in need of free food, Arkansans can visit or call 1.800.5HUNGRY, or text their zip code to 1.800.548.6479.

The deadline for agencies to apply for the Arkansas Summer Food Service Program is April 30, 2019.  To submit an ASFSP application or receive program technical assistance, visit the state’s DHS Arkansas Special Nutrition Program website page or call 501.682.8869.