With school now out, thousands of children who receive free and reduced school breakfast and lunch are at risk of missing meals this summer. But free summer meal programs are out there to help kids stay healthy until school starts again.
However, it appears not everyone is taking advantage of these programs. A recently released study from the Food Research and Action Center (FRAC) reported that one in six children in need benefits from summer meal programs in Pennsylvania. The report found that summer meals reached only 18.7 students for every 100 low-income children who received school meals in the 2012-2013 school year.
In Philadelphia, kids ages 18 and under can get free summer meals at hundreds of locations. No registration or ID is needed, and there are no income requirements in qualifying areas.
Summer meals sites include recreation centers, schools, places of worship, community organizations, public housing complexes and more. The summer meals are made available by the U.S. Department of Agriculture’s Summer Food Service Program and Seamless Summer Option. Philadelphia sponsors include the Department of Parks & Recreation; Nutritional Development Services, Archdiocese of Philadelphia; and the Philadelphia Housing Authority.
Participating sites serve one or more of the following meals: breakfast, lunch, and snack. Many summer meal sites also provide educational enrichment and recreational activities. To find a nearby site, call the toll-free Philly Summer Meals Hotline at 1-855-252-MEAL or text "MealPA" to 877877, or visit www.phillysummermeals.org.
For those outside of Philadelphia, nearby summer meal sites can be found at www.pasummermeals.com or by calling the Pennsylvania Department of Education at (717) 783-6501.
Organizations such as Philabundance are also stepping it up to provide more food to families with children this summer. They will be doing summer food distributions of food through the KidsBites initiative. Summer food distributions will happen twice a month at Stetser Elementary in the City of Chester, Delaware County, starting on June 25 on the second and fourth Wednesday from 10:30 to 11:30 a.m.
Two Thursday monthly food distributions will occur on July 17 and August 21 from 10:30 to 11:30 a.m. at Lowell Elementary School in the Olney section of Philadelphia. The summer KidsBites’ distributions will provide nutritious food staples for children and their families who attend those schools.
If you or someone you know is struggling this summer, please call Philabundance’s Food Help Line, 800-319-Food (3663). You can also visit www.philabundance.org/summerhunger for more resources.