Summer can be the hungriest time of year for children from low-income families. When schools close, kids lose access to critical meals programs like school breakfast and lunch. Free summer meals are available for kids through the national Summer Food Service Program but too many children are missing out. Nationwide, 22 million kids eat free or reduced price lunch. Only 4 million eat summer meals.
One of the biggest obstacles to connecting kids to meals in the summertime is awareness. Oftentimes, program awareness is low, or caregivers do not know how to find a meals site. No Kid Hungry, a campaign to end childhood hunger in America, is helping families access free summer meals through a texting service. The service is free and open to anyone. Users simply text the word “FOOD” or “COMIDA” to 877-877 and the system prompts them to provide their city and state or zip code, which is used to find the location and service times of nearby summer meals sites.
“Studies show that rates of both food insecurity and unhealthy weight gain increase during the summer months, a time when many children also lose access to opportunities for enrichment and physical activity,” said Derrick Lambert, program manager at Share Our Strength, the organization that runs No Kid Hungry. “Summer nutrition programs directly address food insecurity by providing healthy meals for kids, and may also serve as a venue for learning, which can offset summer learning loss. This helps ensure children are healthy and prepared for school when classes resume in the fall.”
Families already struggling to make ends meet have a tough time in the summer. On average, low-income families spend $316 more on groceries each month when kids are out of school for the summer. Free summer meals help resource-strained families and provide consistent nutrition to kids, which is critical for growth, health and success in school.
Summer meals programs are funded by the United States Department of Agriculture (USDA), administered at the state level and implemented by local organizations such as schools, municipalities and other community-based organizations.
No Kid Hungry is ending childhood hunger in America by ensuring that kids get the food they need through programs like summer meals and school breakfast. Since the campaign’s launch, No Kid Hungry and its partners have connected children across the country with more than 775 million meals.