For most students, summer is a time of no school and carefree, fun activities, but for some kids, it means not knowing where their next meal will come from.
For a large portion of students who live in food insecure households, school is the one place they depend on to get a meal.
But what happens when school is out for months?
As part of its Childhood Hunger Initiative and to help alleviate summer childhood hunger, Harvesters—The Community Food Network, is offering Kid’s Cafe, a summer feeding program, at more than 50 sites this summer.
Gene Hallinan, communications manager with Harvesters, and Julie Huse, government programing manager, discussed how this program works and where kids can get free meals in any community.
“This program is really about making sure that kids who need food have it and that the access to it is easy,” said Huse.
Hallinan and Huse said students who are 18 and under can show up to any of the sites and get a free meal.
Each site offers a variety of meals including breakfast, lunch, dinner, or snacks.
The goal, Huse said, is to have enough variety of meals offered in one area that students are able to get three meals a day if needed.
“What we know is that in Harvesters’ service area, one is six children is food insecure,” said Huse.
But what exactly does being food insecure mean? Hallinana said, ultimately, it means being unsure where your next meal will come from.
“They might have a meal today, but they don’t know if there is going to be a meal tomorrow,” she said.
No registration or notice is needed. Kids are able to simply show up to the designated sites during listed service hours and be provided a meal.
The summer theme, “Meet and Eat,” welcomes all children and teens to meet up with friends and enjoy a healthy meal together.
“One of the things I love about the summer feeding program specifically is that it is for anyone 18 and under, so, if you know a child that needs a meal, friends can go together to get a meal and it helps reduce the stigma,” said Huse.
In the Northeast area, the Northeast branch of the Kansas City Public Library is serving dinner from 3 p.m. to 4 p.m. every Monday, Wednesday, and Friday until August 16, 2019. They are located at 6000 Wilson Avenue, Kansas City, Mo., 64123.
Olive Park Village, located at 2310 E. 9th Street, is serving lunch from 2 p.m. to 3 p.m. until July 23, 2019.
Kansas City Urban Youth Academy, located at 1622 E. 17th Terrace is serving lunch Monday through Friday from 11:15 a.m. until 12:45 p.m. until June 27, 2019.
Currently, only 13 percent of students who qualify for free and reduced lunch during the school year are accessing a free meal during the summer.
Hallinan said that is because kids and families might not know these meals are available.
“Families don’t know where to go. We try to get the info out as much as we can–we have signage with dates and times so the families can see that,” she said.
To find more locations that offer a free meal, Harvesters provides a food locator on their website, as well as a text line.
For instructions in English, text the word “FOOD” to 877877. You will then be asked to enter your zip code. A list of food sites will be sent to you with the location, phone number, and what time they are serving meals.
For instructions in Spanish, text the word “COMIDA” to 877877 and follow the same instructions.
You can also visit harvesters.org/Get-Help/Service-Locator to find a food location near you.
Huse said this is a great resource for families to use no matter where they are located.
“[These food locators] are a great resource if people are travelling or have plans that are not in their home location—they can still find these meals.”
For more information on Harvesters, visit harvesters.org.