Millions of children across the United States do not have access to the food they need to lead happy, healthy lives. Food insecurity is clearly a major problem in America: the most recent data from Feeding America indicates more than 13 million children currently are living with hunger across the country. And the coronavirus pandemic has contributed to the problem: data shows that one in six children could face food insecurity and hunger, including more than one in five Texas children. For children in America, summer is often the time of year when they will be hungry the most.
During a regular school year, children facing food insecurity have options to keep hunger at bay, with programs like free breakfast, lunch, and afterschool meals provided on school campuses. But during the summer months when schools are closed, those programs don’t operate and the children are left to find other ways to fend off hunger. That’s why other community organizations must step in to help. It is vitally important that food banks, community centers, and other organizations join with schools to make sure children still have access to the meals they need during the summer months. For millions of children, the most accessible way to combat hunger is partaking in free summer lunch programs, presented at local schools.
Many children in Texas get free meals at school during the academic year. The Texas Department of Agriculture (TDA) administers Summer Meal Programs to ensure children get healthy meals for free throughout the summer months when school is not in session. These Summer Meal Programs provide nutritious meals at designated sites to children who might otherwise not eat well or at all. Non-profit organizations, public libraries, and other community organizations also partner with the TDA to help operate the thousands of meal sites, often school cafeterias, that serve children facing hunger. The TDA partners serve meals to young people 18 years old and younger and people 21 and younger with disabilities in different areas, such as places where over 50% of the local population of children are eligible for free or reduced-price meals via the National School Lunch Program.
If your Texas family needs to find a Summer Meal Program site, here are three ways to find one:
- Text FOODTX to 877877 for meal site information in English or text COMIDA to 877-877 for information in Spanish.
- Visit http://www.summerfood.org to access an interactive meal site map.
- Call 211 to speak to a live operator (English or Spanish).
For general information about the TDA’s Summer Nutrition Programs, visit the summerfood.org website or call TDA’s Food and Nutrition Division at (877) TEX-MEAL or (877) 839-6325.
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