More than 22 million children receive free and reduced price breakfast and lunch through the School Breakfast and National School Lunch Programs. But just because school is out doesn’t mean hunger takes a vacation – nor does a child’s need for good nutrition.
Unfortunately, many children can’t access even one nutritious meal each day during summer. Worse, research shows a lack of nutrition during the summer months may set up a cycle for poor performance once school begins.
That’s why there’s the national Summer Food Service Program, funded by the federal government. This program plans to serve 200 million free meals this summer – breakfasts, lunches, snacks, and dinners – to children 18 years and under at approved sites all over the country.
In Pittsburgh, Citiparks (through their Grub Up program) is overseeing 74 sites that run Monday-Friday through August 18 and are open to children up to age 18 and those with disabilities up to age 21. (Note: Not all meals are served at all sites.) Citiparks also has a food truck that goes all over Pittsburgh with a Roving Art Cart to provide free arts programming and food to kids Tuesday-Friday through August 4.
Summer meals are also available at federally-approved locations throughout Allegheny County.
We must do all we can to make sure children get nutritious food during the summer months so that they’re fueled for school come fall.
HOW YOU CAN TAKE ACTION
Typically, summer food sites are at accessible locations in under-served neighborhoods, like schools and community organizations. Unfortunately, they often lack funding to widely promote that they’re there or to even create signage for passers-by.
You can help to get the word out about these locations and the summer food program in general.
1. Help promote neighborhood sites.
- The fastest way to find the site nearest you is to text FOOD to 877-877. (Check out our info on After-School and Summer Meals for other ways to find your nearest summer meals location.) Spread the word about this location – name, address, and when kids can come by for food – on social media, through online neighborhood groups, and to your network.
- Have a relationship with a community organization? Ask them to help promote neighborhood summer food sites in their next newsletter and on social media.
2. Help promote the summer food program.
- Use social media:
- Print your favorite of these 12 great flyers (also in Spanish) about the program and post them where people will see them. It’s a great summertime activity — take a walk around your neighborhood to see where flyers are already posted (probably barbershops/salons, laundromats, eateries, places of worship) or get creative and find some new spots!