About Summer Meals
Summer is one of the hungriest times of the year for low income kids and their families. Over the summer kids are at a higher risk of both obesity and hunger, with hunger being directly related to learning loss during this time. Summer meals programs aim to alleviate this, however only 15% of children who qualify for free and reduced meals at school also receive meals during the summer months. This leaves a gap in their nutrition and learning that we are trying to solve by increasing the number of summer meals served in Maryland. Summer meals programs can help improve a child’s academic and physical wellbeing by providing healthy nutrition to children and teens 18 and under.
While school is out for the summer, meals are still available at places in the community which provide food as well as a safe area to learn and play. The summer meal program is funded by the USDA and served by organizations like schools, libraries, faith-based organizations, and community groups, who all help make sure that kids have access to nutritious meals when school is out of session.
Benefits of Summer Meals
Keep Kids Learning: Consumption of nutritious food not only supports better cognitive functioning in the summer, it also positions children from low-income families to learn and perform well once they return to the classroom. By providing meals over the summer for kids who may otherwise not receive them, we can support the continued brain development necessary to maintain academic achievements made during the school year. This ensures that kids can come back to school ready to learn and without any summer learning loss.
Keep Kids Healthy: Physically, children from low-income households may gain weight two to three times faster during the summer than during the school year. Because federal summer nutrition programs must provide meals that meet approved nutritional standards, they may mitigate summer weight gain and, in the longer term, make kids less susceptible to chronic diseases and mental illness. Without access to nutritious summer meals, children from low-income families are more likely to suffer from food insecurity and may gain weight as they resort to less healthy, but easily accessible, food options.
Keep Kids Safe: Summer meals sites are designed to provide a safe area in which kids can interact with their peers and participate in group activities. Creating a place where kids are in engaged in educational programs helps with learning retention as they prepare to enter into the school year and fosters a creative environment. Additionally, by participating in group sports or games kids are able to spend time with their friends in a way that encourages good moral choices and behaviors outside of the structure of school.
A site is a state-approved physical location where summer meals are served to kids. There are five types of sites, but the most common sites are open and closed enrolled sites. Open site operate in areas where at least half of the kids are eligible for free and reduced-price lunch. Meals are served free to any child at an open site. Closed enrolled sites provide free meals to children enrolled in an activity program.
Need help figuring out if a summer meal site or day care home is area eligible according to USDA’s averaging policy? Use Share Our Strength’s new Averaged Eligibility Map! This map will show you if the site’s census block group meets the 50% free and reduced price eligibility threshold when averaged with adjacent block groups. You can access the map and user’s guide here. This will help you to interpret the map and show you how to use the data provided in the map to submit a request to your state agency to get your site formally designated as area eligible. .
To find a site near you, text FOOD to 877-877, call 211, or visit MDsummermeals.org. No registration or identification required.