Reducing the summer nutrition gap has been an ongoing priority of the U.S. Department of Agriculture's Food and Nutrition Service (FNS), as part of the agency’s greater mission of ending both hunger and obesity among Americans. FNS is now ready to receive and begin processing the summer meals site locations from all states and territories. Starting May 12, parents, caregivers, teachers and kids can visit the updated Summer Meals Site Finder, with planned weekly updates as sites are provided by states and territories through the first week of September 2017.
In its 42nd year, the Summer Meal Programs – made up of the Summer Food Service Program and the Seamless Summer Option for the National School Lunch Program (NSLP) – provide disadvantaged kids 18 and under with healthy meals at no cost. These meals come at a critical time of the year when children who normally participate in the National School Lunch and School Breakfast Programs no longer have access to these healthy meals, as schools are not in session.
About 22.1 million children and teens receive free and reduced-price meals through the NSLP. But only about 1 in 6 of those (approximately 3.8 million) participate in the Summer Meal Programs – hence the summer nutrition gap.
The Summer Meals Site Finder connects families to healthy meals during the summer months with the push of a button. Because the last day of school—and the beginning of summer meals season—varies in school districts around the country, the site finder tool will be updated regularly with the latest information on summer meal sites that are up and running. Once a site opens, information on its location and hours of operation will be available online, making it easily accessible on both desktop computers and mobile devices. In addition to the online site finder, the National Hunger Hotline (1-866-348-6479) will provide this same information by phone.
FNS is focusing on working individually with states, using demonstrated tactics and lessons learned from previous years to empower state agencies to act on the unique needs of their communities and ultimately decrease childhood hunger. Model initiatives are in place all over the country. Just take a look at the state of Oklahoma, where the Seminole Nation partnered with Head Start and was able to use their busses to overcome transportation challenges. Or Georgia’s “Lunchtime Locomotive,” which used funds from the Atlanta Mayor’s Office and creatively retrofitted a bus into an urban mobile feeding vehicle that would make an average of six daily stops every day of the week throughout Atlanta neighborhoods.
This creative leveraging of partnerships and activities will continue to reduce the summer nutrition gap in rural and urban communities throughout the nation. We look forward to another successful year of bringing much-needed healthy meals to children—alongside our thousands of partners throughout the country that help make summer meals a reality each and every year.