Every child deserves a carefree summer vacation, but for many kids, summer break means an end to the free and reduced price school meals they depend on during the school year. Thankfully, in many communities across the nation, school nutrition programs are stepping up to make sure children don’t go hungry this summer.
Through the US Department of Agriculture’s Summer Food Service Program, schools serving low-income communities can provide free meals and snacks to children at school cafeterias, parks, playgrounds, public housing complexes, summer camps or churches.
For example, San Diego Unified School District (pictured below) has partnered with the city’s Park and Recreation Department since 2004 to host the “Summer Fun Café,” providing free summer lunches to any child who visits one of more than 60 local sites across the district. Thanks to these efforts, last summer, San Diego served more than 250,000 free lunches and snacks.
In Hickman Mills C-1 school district in Kansas City, Missouri, 80 percent of students qualify for free or reduced price meals. The school district works hard to reach children who may not get enough to eat at home. In addition to serving after school meals throughout the year, Hickman Mills will serve about 750 breakfasts, 1250 lunches and 200 dinners a day this summer. Menu offerings include macaroni with low fat cheese sauce and ham, steamed broccoli, oranges and low fat or skim milk.
As a tough economy continues to plague America’s families, summer feeding programs are more important than ever. School districts offering summer meals have found a tremendous unmet need for these services. Just last summer, the South Kitsap School District’s Summer Lunch Camp Program (WA) experienced a 43 percent increase in meals served. Ariane Shanley, the district’s Food and Nutrition Services director said “We had families come and say thank you to us for having this program all summer. They didn’t know what else they would have done if it weren’t for us providing these meals.”
To find summer meal sites in your community, call the National Hunger Hotline at 1-866-3-HUNGRY or 1-877-8-HAMBRE.