CHARLESTON — Organizations across the state are being asked to consider partnering with the West Virginia Department of Education to help feed children and provide supervised activities during the summer months.

When school is out, community programs and organizations help ensure children are still receiving the nutrition they need, especially in low-income areas.

County boards of education, local government agencies and other nonprofit organizations can participate in the Summer Food Service Program, which ensures those ages 18 and under in lower-income areas continue to receive free, nutritious meals even when they don’t have access to the programs that are available to them during the school year, such as the School Breakfast Program or National School Lunch Program.Feeding sites often include schools, churches, community centers, pools, parks, libraries, housing complexes and summer camps.

“Providing consistent, quality nutrition throughout the summer helps children return to the classroom ready to learn and succeed,” said state Superintendent Steve Paine in a news release.

In West Virginia, 198,435 schoolchildren (about 76%) depend on free and reduced-price meals at school, yet only about 18,000 receive the free meals provided by the Summer Food Service Program.

In 2019, 537 Summer Food Program sites provided nutritious meals to children in West Virginia, according to Amanda Harrison, executive director of the Office of Child Nutrition.

Organizations interested in becoming a 2020 summer sponsor should contact Cybele Boehm or Samantha Reeves with the Office of Child Nutrition at cboehm@k12.wv.us or snsuffer@k12.wv.us or by calling 304-558-3396. Summer sites will be announced in June 2020.