Children can enjoy free lunches through the Summer Food Service Program, a federally funded nutrition program open to all kids ages 1-18. In addition to lunch, some sites also offer breakfast and snacks to accompany a day of activities.
“Summer can spell hunger for some children who rely on school meals,” according to a press release from the nonprofit Partners for a Hunger-Free Oregon. The Summer Food Service Program “makes sure kids can eat healthy food during the summer months when school is out.” Meals are served at locations where kids normally congregate, such as playgrounds, parks, summer schools and community centers.
Many sites offer activities such as games, arts and crafts in addition to meals. Families can find a meal site near them by visiting summerfoodoregon.org or calling 211 (toll-free).
“Tough economic times mean that families scramble to provide meals when school is out, and we are working hard to make sure those kids can grow and thrive,” says Lesley Nelson, child hunger prevention manager at Partners for a Hunger-Free Oregon.
Funding for the Summer Food Service Program is provided by the U.S. Department of Agriculture. Meal sites are located in neighborhoods with a high percentage of children eligible for free or reduced-price school meals. Because the neighborhood qualifies, no application or advance registration is needed and all children are welcome.
A study released this week by the Food Research and Action Center (FRAC) finds that Oregon is one of the top states in providing free meals to hungry children during the summer months, yet serves just a fraction of those who need it. In its annual report, “Hunger Doesn’t Take a Vacation: Summer Nutrition Status Report,” FRAC found that on an average day in July 2012, about 36,300 low-income children participated in Summer Food program each day, serving just 17.5 percent of children who eat school lunches during the school year.