USDA’s Summer Food Service Program, a federally-funded, state-administered program, last year served more than 187 million meals to children in low-income areas to ensure that they continued to receive proper nutrition throughout the summer when schools were closed. But that number represents just a small fraction of the children who are eligible to receive summer meals. Many families may not have taken advantage of the program because they didn’t know where meals were served near them.
That’s why this summer we here at USDA’s Food and Nutrition Service recently launched the Summer Meal Site Finder, a new web and mobile tool that allows parents, teens and children in all 50 states, as well as Puerto Rico and the Virgin Islands, to type in their address, city, state or zip code to get a list of the summer meal sites closest to them. The tool also provides information about each of the 45,000 sites already registered for this summer, including their operating hours, contact information, and directions to each site.
The Summer Meal Site Finder—available in both English and Spanish—is simple and easy to use so that it is valuable to the broadest possible audience. People on the go can access the tool from their mobile devices. And for those who would rather talk to a person, summer site information is also available through the National Hunger Hotline at 1-866-3-HUNGRY (English) or 1-877-8-HAMBRE (Spanish).
The response to the Summer Meal Site Finder has been phenomenal. In the first week alone, 24,000 users used the tool; that number doubled the second week. Fifty percent of users are accessing it from mobile devices. And these numbers don’t even include usage of the tool embedded on other organizations’ websites. I’m excited that we’ve been able to leverage technology in our effort to prevent child hunger and ensure kids arrive at school in the fall ready to learn.
This year is the 40th anniversary of the Summer Food Service Program, and we want to make it the most successful year yet. We’ve set a goal of serving 200 million meals this summer. But USDA can’t do it alone. We count on partners, states, regional offices and organizations to help us get the word out about the availability of free, nutritious summer meals to families in need.
How can you help? Spread the word and share the Summer Meal Site Finder link: www.fns.usda.gov/summerfoodrocks. Share and post the new downloadable summer meals flyers available in both English and Spanish at http://www.fns.usda.gov/sfsp/raise-awareness. Post information on your social media sites. Retweet information about summer meals from @USDANutrition. Together, we can put hunger on vacation this summer.