When school is out of session during the summertime, families who rely on school meals have a tough time feeding the little ones in their household. According to No Kid Hungry, a national initiative run by nonprofit Share Out Strength, 6 out of 7 hungry kids don't get the summer meals they need, but thanks to many heroic local organizations, resources are being pulled together to provide nutritious food and reach children in need across the country. Here's how to find summer meals near you:
Use the USDA's handy map.
The U.S. Department of Agriculture's Summer Food Service Program is a federally-funded, state-administered program that reimburses program operators serving free meals and snacks to kids in low-income areas. Find a location serving free meals near you using the USDA Summer Meal Site Finder — all you have to do is enter your address, city, state and/or zip code and the map will generate active local sites, with details on days of operation, meal times, contact info and directions.The meals within these programs are typically provided for kids ages 18 and under, and new sites are added to the map throughout the summer.
Call the USDA Hotline.
When in doubt, a quick call to the USDA Hotline will lead you to details about the best free summer meals offerings in your area. Dial 1-866-348-6479 for more info.
Simply send a text.
If you're out and about, this option may be easier than searching on a map. Text FOOD (or COMIDA) to 877-877 to find the nearest free summer meals — you simply need to reply with your address, city and state or zip code when prompted, and you'll receive a text with info on the summer meals sites nearest to you. No Kid Hungry partnered with the USDA to spread awareness about the free meal sites popping up across the country. The service is free and open to anyone, and available in Spanish.
Check in on your local school districts' offerings.
The department of education in many states can provide information on their local Summer Food Service Program. The programs may have different names in different states — Summer Meals, Meet Up and Eat Up, and more — but they all have similar offerings. Running a simple search containing your child's school district name and the terms "summer meals" should bring up information on programs at school, playgrounds, parks, community centers and mobile locations. Some even have sample menus so families know what items will be available on certain days.
Find a nearby food bank.
Feeding America has a nationwide network of food banks that host a variety of summer food service programs. Locate a nearby food bank using their easy map tool to take advantage of offerings like Kids Cafe, BackPack programs and School Pantry programs, as well as Picnic in the Park programs within Feeding America's network. Your local food bank may even offer mobile pantries—trucks that deliver free boxes of groceries to those in need, or be able to connect you to charity markets and free cafes serving meals in the area.
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