Nutritional Development Services (NDS) of the Archdiocese of Philadelphia held its annual Blessing of the Summer on June 21 to kick off its Summer Meals Program. Msgr. Daniel Sullivan, president of the NDS Board, presided over the blessing at Mercy Neighborhood Ministries in North Philadelphia.

The Summer Meals Program is federally funded, operated nationally by the U.S. Department of Agriculture and administered by the Pennsylvania Department of Education.  This year the NDS Summer Meals Program runs from June 17 through Aug. 23.

In summer 2012, NDS worked with 468 sites and served over 873,000 meals throughout the Philadelphia region. NDS partners with dedicated community leaders to provide service to families and contribute to the health and well-being of children in Philadelphia and the surrounding area.  So far this year, NDS has coordinated over 400 sites and introduced a new menu that follows new federal guidelines closely. Half of the meal components are now fruits and vegetables. The new menu includes more fresh products, whole grains and skim milk.

Participating sites offer children lunch and a choice of breakfast or a snack.  Most Philadelphia and many suburban neighborhoods qualify for the program. Children participating in the program are invited to enter a creative writing contest and a poster contest that promotes peace in the community.