Students who depend on eating at school for their one — and sometimes only — meal of the day will be able to more easily find a location for free meals during the summer.
The expansion of the federal Summer Food Service Program will provide more meals to children and teens 18 years and younger during summer at school locations, Boys & Girls Clubs, community centers and social service agencies.
Students who typically get free and reduced lunches during the school year can now find other sites during the summer.
“We are reaching out more than ever before to places where we know we can reach these students and letting them know that some sites have breakfasts, lunch, snacks and dinners and they don’t have to apply or sign up, they just need to show up,” said Jesus Mendoza Jr., the USDA’s regional administrator for the Western Region of the United States. “Our summer meals program has really taken off, but we are concerned because many of the schools had to cut summer school programs and we want them to still have nutritious meals.”
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Last summer, the federal program served 190 million students; this year they plan to reach 200 million nationwide. The federal government sponsors sites to run the program and get the word out to camps and faith-based and other nonprofit community organizations in low-income areas.
“Also during the summer months is a time when children gain weight if they are not physically active and are not eating nutritious meals,” Mendoza said. Some of the food programs are at libraries as well, where children spend the day and are involved with reading programs. Mendoza noted that Los Angeles Mayor Eric Garcetti’s office announced a Get Summer initiative in April that the USDA is also working with to help keep students properly fed. The program gives youths ages 12-17 free access to all LA County YMCA’s in June and July.