Recent legislation provides support for summer meal programs
How to locate summer meal sites near you
By: Emily Gallion, Grant & Metrics Manager/Advocacy Manager, and Caitlyn McIntosh, Outreach/SNAP Lead
While local schools look forward to closing down for summer break, students who typically rely on breakfast and lunch during the school year may be left wondering where their next meal is coming from. Thanks to an extension of funding from the USDA, students and their families will have a weight taken off their shoulders this summer.
The United States Department of Agriculture recently announced the extension of free summer meal programs through September 2021. This announcement will benefit Dayton area programs working to provide healthy meals to students throughout the summer months when school is not in session.
This funding will also include schools who, pre-pandemic, may not have qualified to provide summer meals to their students in previous years. Beavercreek City Schools is one district who did not previously qualify, but are now looking forward to organizing meal distributions for students after an especially challenging year.
During the school year, many schools provide additional food assistance by issuing weekend backpacks. Feed the Creek, Blessings in a Bag, and the Kettering Backpack Program are some examples of school-ran programs aimed at sending nutritious food home with children at risk of food insecurity.
The Foodbank’s own Good-to-Go Backpack Program aims to fill the gap for schools who cannot provide their own backpack program. Each week The Foodbank distributes over 750 backpacks to local schools, which are then distributed to children identified by a school administrator. Each pack is filled with foods intended to feed the student through the weekend.
While these programs offer a security net during the school year, students no longer have these guaranteed meals once school is out for the summer.
According to Feeding America’s Map the Meal Gap, the COVID-19 pandemic increased the nationwide food insecurity rate by 17 million people. In The Foodbank’s service area of Montgomery, Greene, and Preble counties, 1 in 5 children struggle with food insecurity. Summer meal programs will be critical for families still trying to recover from the added hardships brought on by the pandemic.
There are over 50 free meal sites in the Dayton area alone. Emerson Academy, Immaculate Conception, and Kettering Fairmont High School are just some of the sites that allow all children aged 1-18 years to receive a free meal throughout the summer. Some programs are even offering multiple meals a day.
Families looking to find a summer meal site may do so by using this site locator or by contacting their school’s administration.
Earlier in the 2020-21 school year we saw the creation of a new Pandemic-EBT program that allowed for a crucial line of defense against childhood hunger. This temporary program distributes SNAP benefits to school aged children who qualify for free or reduced school lunch.
The electronic funds can be used at any retailer that accepts regular SNAP benefits and can be used on eligible items such as dairy, fruits, vegetables, protein, and more. For each day that school was closed due to the pandemic, children will receive $6.82 on their P-EBT card.
Additionally, children under 6 years old currently living in a household that qualifies for SNAP are also eligible for P-EBT benefits beginning April 2021. To see if your family qualifies, visit the program’s website.
As Americans work to regain a sense of stability after the pandemic, having resources that allow a form of financial relief can be vital to one’s quality of life. Hunger does not operate in a silo and it is important to acknowledge all of the organizations working to ensure that no one goes hungry.
The Foodbank and its 106 partner agencies provide food assistance year-round and is always available free of charge. For more information on how to receive food, visit our website.