By Taneisha Fair, community resource navigation specialist, United Way 2-1-1
Summer is here, leaving Greater Cleveland kids and teens excited for warm weather. Some are anxious for family trips and barbecues and others about replacing the meals normally eaten at school, which is now lost over summer break.
Feeding America reports four out of five of the more than 22 million children who receive free or reduced-price breakfast and lunch at school will not have access to these meals over summer break. Fortunately, there are community programs to help.
The Summer Food Service Program (SFSP), a federal program, has filled this gap for more than 40 years. SFSP prevents summer hunger by supplying free and nutritious meals to those 18 and younger from low-income households while school is out of session. Individuals who are over 18 with mental and physical disabilities and involved in school programs are also eligible for the free lunch.
Meal sites operate in various locations throughout the community as “open,” “enrolled,” or “camp” sites. Open sites are usually in low-income communities, but are available to any child in the community. Enrolled sites provide free meals to children who participate in an activity or program at the site. Camps that participate in SFSP can receive a payment to cover meals for children who are eligible for free or reduced-price meals.
Many do not know access to free meals for their children is just a phone call away! Residents can call the National Hunger Hotline at 1-866-3-HUNGRY or 1-877-8-HAMBRE to identify their local sites. There are other helpful resources, such as food pantries and hot meals that callers can learn about by dialing 2-1-1 or 216-436-2000.