- Associated Press - Saturday, June 6, 2015

COLUMBUS, Ohio (AP) - Schoolchildren throughout Ohio can receive free meals throughout the summer through an often overlooked program.

The Summer Food Service Program provides free, nutritious meals and snacks throughout June, July and August to children ages 1 through 18 and to people 19 through 21 who have been identified with a mental or physical disability and are on an individualized education plan.

The meals are available through sponsoring school districts, local government agencies, camps and private nonprofit organizations. Sponsors must meet guidelines for serving low-income communities, but the Ohio Department of Education says any student is eligible. Sponsors receive payments for the meals through the U.S. Department of Agriculture, often combining food offerings with their summer activity programming.

Last summer, Ohio served 3.8 million meals to 1,624 sites operated by 191 sponsoring organizations. According to the Education Department, only a fraction of eligible children take advantage of the program as compared to the number participating in free and reduced-price lunch programs during the other nine months of the year.

A map of sponsoring locations is available on the department’s website.

Good nutrition is considered an important factor in a child’s growth and learning.

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Online:

Ohio Department of Education: http://www.education.ohio.gov

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