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Free Summer Meal Sites for Kids: Hunger Doesn’t Get a Vacation

If your children rely on free or reduced-price meals during the school year, summer meals don't have to be a challenge.

The Summer Food Service or Summer Meals Program fills that gap by providing free nutritious meals and snacks at locations in your community. But, believe it or not, only 12% of eligible children participate in the summer meals program―many of which also offer free and fun recreational and educational activities.

The American Academy of Pediatrics (AAP) knows hunger doesn't get a summer vacation. More than 15 million children in the United States live in""food insecure" homes―that's 1 in 6 children who live with hunger. The AAP advocates for increased participation in summer food service programs by spreading awareness, fighting stigma, addressing transportation concerns, and reminding parents to model healthy eating habits. 

Parents, grandparents, caregivers: find free summer meal sites near you!

How to get kids to and from summer meal sites?

Getting to meal sites is often half the battle. Convenience is a key factor in determining whether you or a caregiver can take your children to a free summer meal site. For this reason, many summer feeding sites have transportation solutions to bring children and meals together. Free bus passes, mobile feeding sites, and free rides are available in many sites across the country. Contact your local summer feeding site to see if there are transportation solutions in your area.

Unfortunately, every community includes families who are struggling to make ends meet.

In most cases, parents who need assistance are getting only about half of the services they already qualify for. Help is really is not far away. 

Your pediatrician can connect you with resources in your community, including access to food, safe housing, transportation, quality childcare, and other supports. Your pediatrician knows you try to be the best parent possible and wants to help!

Give your child a healthy body and a healthy mind.

As parents, you cannot allow for your situation to impact your children's physical or mental health―especially when there are resources available to help.

Are your children feeling isolated, ashamed or embarrassed by their lack of food? Some children, for example, are old enough to grasp the concept of receiving free or reduced-price school or summer meals; others are far too young. Have conversations about the importance of a full and balanced diet. Fight the stigma! By visiting a summer meal site and seeing many other children there, your child will know he or she is not alone.

Parents, are you modeling healthy eating habits? 

Are you taking lunch breaks? Are you skipping meals altogether to get ahead on work? This faced-paced culture is problematic for many reasons―including the example it sets for your children about the importance of healthy eating habits. Encourage your kids to make time for all meals, no matter where they come from.

Editor's note: During the school year, any student attending a school that participates in the 
National School Lunch Program or School Breakfast Program can receive a meal. Children from low-income families are eligible for free or reduced-price school meals. Learn more and find out who is eligible for free and reduced-price school meals here

Additional Information:

Last Updated
American Academy of Pediatrics (Copyright © 2019)
The information contained on this Web site should not be used as a substitute for the medical care and advice of your pediatrician. There may be variations in treatment that your pediatrician may recommend based on individual facts and circumstances.
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