Summer feeding program success at Mayo

Nez Spann and Joyce Wingate Thomas.				   Photo by Jana E. Pye

Nez Spann and Joyce Wingate Thomas. Photo by Jana E. Pye

By Jana E. Pye, Editor,

Mayo High School for Math, Science and Technology serves as a magnet school in Darlington County for feeding the minds of bright students throughout the school year, but this year it fed children with nutritious meals at a time when they needed it most- the summer months.

“We had a very successful summer feeding program this summer at Mayo,” said Joyce Wingate Thomas. “This was a successful collaboration between the Darlington County School District and Vision Educational Center. We had some hurdles, but all in all it worked out just great. We hope to get more children to participate, and find more locations for children to walk to in areas where transportation is not available.”

Thomas, a former member of the Darlington County Board of Education, is a long time advocate for children.

“The children that depend on hot meals during the school year are just as hungry in the summer,” said Thomas. “We had one young man that just ate and ate. He told us that sometimes he doesn’t have dinner, it would break your heart.”

“The site at Mayo High School was perfect,” said Nez Spann, President and CEO of Vision Educational Center.

“We averaged many children at the beginning of the summer, because of the DSAP program being held on site. After that ended, the numbers went down to the children in the community. “ said Thomas.

“We had great help from Mayo principal Arlene Wallace, district superintendent Dr. Eddie Ingram and district comptroller Lide Graham,” said Spann. “They were a joy to work with.”

“I want the schools to know that it worked,” said Thomas. “As a former board member, I know how important it is for the schools and the community to work together. This collaboration was good. We will work with the school department early this winter to start planning this. There is so much poverty here in this area.”

Vision Educational Center participated in the Summer Food Service Program (SFSP) providing hot meals for breakfast and lunch for children ages 0 to 18 years of age in the following counties: Darlington, Dillon, Florence, Marion, Marlboro and Chesterfield.

The program ran from June 8 through August 7, 2015 Monday through Friday from 8:30 to 1 p.m.

“My first location in Darlington County was the Housing Authority in Darlington in 2008,” said Spann. “We did an afterschool program first, which led to the Summer Feeding Program. When I stopped the year ‘round program, I realized how many counties depended on the food. One participant came from Florence (Parks and Rec.) and said they depend on us. We have collaboration between the School District in Florence; we hope to have the same in all the counties of the Pee Dee. To be honest, I see more need here in Darlington County than I do in other areas.”

Many centers are held at churches, recreation departments, and Boys and Girls clubs. Still others are at private homes, which are approved by the program and must meet specific requirements.
“There are some rural locations where houses are a great distance apart,” said Spann. “Those are the children that need to be fed, and we cannot get the food to them. They must enter the site to be fed. This is where the greatest need is, and it is my greatest wish to get food to those children that need it most.”

How does it work?

The South Carolina Department of Education website shared the following :

Summer Food Service Program (SFSP) Local government agencies and private non-profit organizations also have an opportunity to provide summer meals to children by becoming a sponsor or a summer site for the SFSP.

How SFSP Works?

SFSP is administered at the Federal level by the Food and Nutrition Service (FNS), an agency of the United States Department of Agriculture (USDA). FNS decides overall program policy and publishes regulations and payment rates. State education agencies administer SFSP in most States. Other State agencies may also be assigned to run the program.

The State agency approves sponsor applications, conducts training of sponsors, monitors SFSP operations, and processes program payments. Sponsors sign agreements with their State agencies to run the program.

SFSP reimburses approved sponsors for serving meals that meet Federal nutritional guidelines. Sponsors receive payments from USDA, through their State agencies, based on the number of meals they serve. All meals are served free to eligible children.

What is a Site?

A site is the physical location, approved by the State agency, where you serve SFSP meals during a supervised time period.States classify and approve SFSP meal sites as open, closed enrolled, camp, migrant, or NYSP:

• Open sites operate in low-income areas where at least 50 percent of children residing in the area are eligible for free and reduced-price school meals, based on local school or census data.The meals are served free to any child at the site on a first-come, first-serve basis. (Darlington County qualifies for free school meals for the entire district.)
• Closed enrolled sites are established for a specific group of children who enroll in an organized activity program or who do not reside in an eligible low income area. The site becomes eligible for SFSP if at least half of the enrolled children qualify for free and reduced-price meals.Because the site is not open to the community, meals are served free only to enrolled children.
• Camps are sites that offer regularly scheduled food service along with organized activities for enrolled residential or day campers. The camp receives reimbursement only for meals served to enrolled children who qualify for free and reduced-price meals.
• Migrant sites primarily serve children of migrant workers. The site qualifies by providing appropriate certification from a migrant organization.
• NYSP College or university participating in the National Youth Sports Program (NYSP). Children must be enrolled in NYSP to participate.

To learn about the Summer Feeding Program application and training process, please contact the Dr. Andrew Thomas at 803-734-8194 or email

To contact Spann, you may reach her at: or by calling 843-627-3482.

Author: Duane Childers

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