Best Practices: State Agency Achievement
The initiative and leadership of the state agency are critical to the local success of any summer meal program. This section highlights the best efforts of state agencies in customer service and administration.
FLORIDA DEPARTMENT OF EDUCATION
The new SFSP team at Florida's Department of Education puts customer service first with improved coordination, partnership, and communication. To improve outreach, training, and monitoring, the state agency assigned a manager who provides "personalized" customer service to sponsors in each region of the state. The agency partnered with WIC, food stamps, state universities, school superintendents, park departments, and migrant education programs to add over 140 sites and increase participation. It created public service announcements featuring popular university athletes. Their messages promote healthy eating and SFSP, and give a toll free number which parents can call to find out where summer meals are available for children in their neighborhood. The state agency also posted electronic billboards on computer screens in stores in areas where several SFSP sites are located.
Contact: Milton Tankersley
NEW YORK DEPARTMENT OF EDUCATION
Albany, New York
In 1998, the New York Department of Education assumed the administration of the Summer Program for school and local government sponsors from the USDA Northeast regional office. To prepare itself for this new challenge, state agency staff spent a significant amount of time "shadowing" other Summer Food Service Program state agencies to observe "best practices" of program administration, on a first-hand basis. In the short time it has administered the program, it has:
- Advertised on the New York subway system in English and Spanish,
- Had the state Department of Health present during its annual training of sponsors on topics like food safety and health inspections,
- Established a memorandum of understanding with the Department of Health to use their 1-800 hot line that is staffed by multi-lingual personnel. Callers were referred to the nearest open feeding site, or to the state agency,
- Streamlined the application process for Summer sponsors, 5) held two state-level SFSP summits,
- Received endorsements from mayors, superintendents and the Deputy Commissioner of Elementary, Secondary and Middle and Continuing Education,
- Had Governor Pataki declare July 1999, the Summer Food Service Month for New York; and,
- Overcame staff shortages by hiring 14 per diem employees for July and August to assist with site reviews. These employees were school food service directors who already had experience with, and a vested interest in, preserving the integrity of Child Nutrition Programs.
Contact: Frances O'Donnell
PENNSYLVANIA DEPARTMENT OF EDUCATION
The Pennsylvania state agency is concerned about food safety and the quality of meals being served in the Summer Program. To address this concern, the state agency formed partnerships with many public agencies such as the state Department of Agriculture and many local health departments. through these partnerships, the State agency was able to test and determine safe microbiological standards for coliform, fecal streptococcus and plate counts for vended meals.
Because no national standards exist, the State agency worked with the Philadelphia Health Department to determine the standards that were used for 1999. These standards were then included in all sponsor contracts with food vendors. A mock inspection, which included sample vended meals, was then conducted to assist staff become familiar with the inspection procedures.
After proper training, the partnering agencies visited five of the largest SFSP meal vendors in the state. They tested for compliance with regards to minimum meal portions and food safety. A corrective action plan was outlined for vendors with a violation. The partnership was so successful that the state agency hopes to continue it for next year’s Summer Program.
Contact: Susan Still
MISSOURI DEPARTMENT OF HEALTH
Jefferson City, Missouri
The state agency is committed to Program expansion across Missouri. In fact, in 1999, the Missouri Summer Program increased by 41 percent for sponsor participation, it had 46 new feeding sites participating in the program, and served 39 percent more Summer meals. The Department of Health attributes its success to a comprehensive marketing plan which clearly defined its goals, objectives and strategies for program outreach. These strategies targeted three under-served regions in Missouri. The plan allowed the state agency to:
- Conduct research and analysis of participation trends,
- Survey participating sponsors to identify their needs,
- Identify community organizations located in these areas that have the facilities to prepare, hold and safely store foods, and
- increase awareness of and need for the Summer Program among local politicians.
The marketing plan also reduced the paperwork burden for sponsors and streamlined the application process.
Contact: Dave Carson
SOUTH CAROLINA DEPARTMENT OF SOCIAL SERVICES
Columbia, South Carolina
In an effort to expand participation across South Carolina in the Summer Program, the Department of Social Services targeted nine counties for outreach. Several internal partnerships were formed to facilitate this effort. For example, the Office of Program Policy and Oversight printed a broadcast message on each Family Independence recipient's check. This message provided a 1-800 number that community members could call for a listing of Summer sites.
Innovative training techniques were also used to meet the needs of sponsors in the state. Sponsors were trained separately depending on whether they were returning (experienced) sponsors or if they were new to the Program. Make-up sessions were available for all sponsors. state-level Sunshine Awards were given to outstanding Summer sponsors.
To improve the program, the Department of Social Services hopes to implement a computer system in the near future that will allow sponsors to submit their Summer Program applications electronically. This process will reduce the amount of paperwork received and the amount of administrative time required, for both the sponsor and the state agency, to review the application.
Contact: J. Caressa Louallen