Free or Reduced Lunch: Summer Edition

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One of the biggest things that left an impression on me while working in the public school system was noticing for the first time that some children get their lunch for free.  I’m sure it went on while I was in school.  (Though probably not as often as I was fortunate enough to grow up in a school district full of privileged [and sometimes overly-priviledged] children.)   After I made this realization, I started to recognize that for many of these children, this may be the only true meal they eat all day.  It broke my heart, but also made me smile that at least there was this resource for them.

 

In my naivete, I had never thought about what happened in the summer months.  Surely resources for families do not get any better just because school lets out.  But those same children are missing at least one meal they would have otherwise been provided with.

 

Enter the Summer Meal Program.  Started in 1968 by the USDA, it’s gone through some evolution over the years, but the end result as it stands today is that those same children can get nutritious meals at any number of sites throughout their state.  In Pennsylvania there are over 2,000.  You have to apply for the program with your state, much the same way you would have had to apply for your program during the school year.  Then, locate a site using the resources below:

 

 

(Side note:  The map is automatically centered around Philly which bothers me to no end as a Pittsburgher. Random rant.  Will have no bearing on  your search.)

 

 
For nationwide inquiries, you can ask for a list at the time of your application or call the National Hunger Hotline at:  1-866-348-6479.

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28 thoughts on “Free or Reduced Lunch: Summer Edition

  1. Meredith

    This is really good to know! I never thought about is much easier, but I know the summer months can be so hard for families who rely on the school for childcare and and some meals–thanks for filling us in!

    Reply
  2. nicoleandmaggie

    One of the things that broke my heart summers volunteering at the Summer Migrant Program (summer education for kids of migrant farm laborers) was seeing how many of the kids, small children, started the summer skin and bones and got healthy as the summer progressed and they were getting breakfast lunch and snacks.

    Reply
  3. Niki

    This is such a nice program. We were up at the school to get some paperwork taken care of for our move and it just happened to be at lunch time, so my son got himself some lunch. But it is a great program for some that can’t afford it.

    Reply
  4. AverageJoe

    Invaluable post for many people. I couldn’t help laughing about the Pitt/Philly rant. Apparently the City of Brotherly Love ain’t that lovely for ya….

    Reply
    1. femmefrugality

      Well, I don’t hate Philly, I’m just not seeing the big deal. It’s bigger than Pittsburgh, but it’s not the capitol. So why not have it centered around Harrisburg? Also, many of our elected officials come from Philly on the state level. I feel like Pittsburgh sometimes gets the short end of the stick. Also, the Eagles signed Michael Vick. Ew.

      Reply
    1. femmefrugality

      This program is for families that would otherwise be unable to provide their kids with meals period. Some kids do pack their own lunches here, but for some families that may not even be an option. It is possible to sit and judge how the parents are spending the money, but the fact of the matter is that those kids don’t get a say in it, and at least this way they’re being fed nutritious food at least once a day.

      Reply
  5. ERIKA

    Awww.. that is really sad. I never really saw that in school since I went to private schools. Most kids bought their lunches everyday. My mom packed mine everyday and I felt poor and left out because everyone bought food. They bought food sometimes 3 times a day – breakfast, lunch, after school. It’s crazy!!

    Reply
    1. femmefrugality

      You may not have noticed the kids who got free lunch. At my school, they just got a special ticket or something that they handed to the cafeteria workers instead of cash. It was no big deal. That being said, if it was a private school it might have been even less common.

      Reply
  6. MyMoneyDesign

    My wife is a teacher and she tells me all the time about how many kids are on these types of programs. Very, very sad, but good to know that there is at least some type of help out there!

    Reply
    1. femmefrugality

      It is. But like Shawanda said, not every single child is going home starving. Some of them are, but there are some people on the program who have parents with heads on their shoulders or are lucky enough to meet the income requirements, but still are able to provide many basic needs. It is sad for those who are not so lucky, though.

      Reply
  7. Anthony Thompson

    The Summer Meal Program is such a great thing to have available; especially for children from socioeconomically depressed areas of the country. It’s such a heartbreaker to know that some school children can’t afford the most basic resource needed for human growth. The program is definitely a good thing.

    Reply
  8. Tackling Our Debt

    Good to know that someone came up with a way to help children when they are not in school. Must have become even more important in the last 5 years with the economy being so volatile.

    Reply
  9. Shawanda

    What?! I’m surprised by the comments. I’ll have to ask my mom how she managed because during high school, I received free lunch. And at no point was I hungry or concerned about the adequacy or quality of my next meal. The summer didn’t present a separate set of challenges. Maybe the kids don’t eat well during the summer because their parents don’t prepare meals for them.

    When I was a young kid, I loved getting what we called “free lunch” during the summer. They’d serve them at the local parks. My family wasn’t poor, but if I could get a “free lunch”, I was in heaven.

    Reply
    1. femmefrugality

      You’re right…not everyone on this program is impoverished. The area of the country that I worked in was, so that’s largely what I’m drawing from, personally. But there are people who are just under a certain income level that still manage their money/family correctly and therefore qualify for the program. Not everyone on it isn’t getting food at home, but the free lunches certainly don’t hurt home economics!

      Reply
  10. Michelle

    So good to know. It is absolutely heartbreaking to think about the fact that there are children going hungry in our own great country. I’ve helped out at the school many times and have always wondered what the kids eat on the weekends if their parents can’t afford to feed them during the week.

    Reply
  11. Katie

    I think it’s great that there is a program like that. I’m sure that a lot of the kids the get the free meals are fed well at home but there is also some that may not be. It’s a great resource for the people who need it.

    Reply

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