How to find free meals for low-income families this summer

Multiple resources provide free meals for low-income families this summer

LOUISVILLE, Ky. (WAVE) - School is out for summer, which means many kids who rely on school meals will struggle to get enough to eat.

During the school year, many families rely on the free and reduced lunches at school.

Text "FOOD" or "COMIDA" to 877-877 for free summer meal options near you. (Source: WAVE 3 News)
Text "FOOD" or "COMIDA" to 877-877 for free summer meal options near you. (Source: WAVE 3 News)

JCPS announced starting June 10, they will offer free breakfast and lunch to children and teens during the summer food service program. They have more than 160 locations across Jefferson County and that program runs through August 2, 2019.

Dare to Care Food Bank has 29 sites across the area that provide free meals to kids under 18 this summer, too.

At Americana World Community Center, more than 100 kids are getting three free meals, four days a week during the summer.

“It's not only that they're just filling their bellies, they are actually giving them something that will fuel their bodies,” Emilie Dyer, Americana World Community Center Program Director, said.

Dyer added that during their after school problems while school is in session, the number of students they serve stays pretty consistent. Americana has 150 students in their summer programming right now. During the summer, that number tends to fluctuate.

“In the summer, we see a lot more children who may or may not be in the summer programming we offer here because they are looking for that food supplementation that we can provide,” Dyer said.

Americana serves as a safe space for students to continue to learn during summer break. The program focuses on six main areas including STEM, Creative Arts, Physical Education, Environmental Education, Literacy and Computer Literacy.

Dyer said most of the students in the program receive free or reduced lunch at school, along with SNAP benefits, so the meals they provide in partnership with Dare to Care are crucial during the summer.

“I’m so impressed with what Dare to Care does because they make sure that on every child’s plate there’s a grain, there’s a dairy, there’s a vegetable and there’s a protein--every single time,” Dyer emphasized. “The quality of food we give children to give them energy, to learn, to grow, to play is really valuable.”

The No Kid Hungry Campaign says 43% percent of low-income families said it’s harder to make ends meet during summer.

Derrick Lambert is a Senior Manager with Share our Strength, an organization that runs the No Kid Hungry campaign. Lambert said they are trying to help end child hunger in America by increasing access to already-funded child hunger programs.

In 2013, they launched a summer meals text messaging service that can be used nationwide.

Parents, grandparents and caregivers can text “FOOD” or “COMIDA” to 877-877 to find free summer meal sites in their neighborhoods. The service will ask for a street address and then provide the three closets locations with information on days, times and contact information for each location.

He said the sites promoted in the texting service are open summer meal sites—no need to register or call ahead to get the meal.

In Kentucky, Lambert said the Kentucky Department of Education, the Kentucky Department of Agriculture and Feeding Kentucky, etc. have helped increase awareness of programs and increase the number of meal sites throughout the state.

“These are programs that are available to the community. In many cases they are providing not just a meal but also an activity," Lambert said. “So these are programs that really support the well-being of the whole child.”

Since launching the texting service in 2013, Lambert said they are seeing more and more people use it. In 2016, they had 55,514 people use the texting service. That number jumped to 389,499 texts in 2017. In 2018, they had 176,885 texts.

For more information on JCPS locations for summer meals, click or tap here.

For more information on Dare to Care Food Bank locations, click or tap here.

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