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Summer Meal Programs Offer a Lifeline to Families

Friday, June 28, 2013

For many students, the end of the school year heralds a summer filled with swimming, barbecuing, sleeping in, and taking vacations. Unfortunately, summer can also stretch family budgets to the limit, as free and reduced breakfasts and lunches are no longer available to students during the school day.

More than 31 million students nationwide participate in the federally funded National School Lunch Program (NSLP), which provides low-cost or free meals to eligible students. According to Kids Data, nearly 68% of Mendocino county’s K-12 students qualify for free or reduced-price meals. That means that more than two-thirds of Mendocino county families are faced with the often impossible task of providing enough food for their children during the summer months. “The sad truth is, when school ends, some kids don’t get enough to eat,” says Tarney Sheldon, Nutrition Basics Program Manager for North Coast Opportunities Community Action.

According to a recent study done by No Kid Hungry, 50% of low-income families report spending $300 more per month on groceries during the summer. But there is hope for families struggling to put enough food on the table. The USDA – which runs NSLP – also sponsors the Summer Food program. There are many sites serving free meals around Mendocino County to kids as well as adults. There are no income requirements or forms to fill out  - anyone in need is welcome.

At most sites, groups are not only welcome but encouraged. This includes people who run a day care, or anyone who faces an empty fridge thanks to the voracious appetites of kids and their friends. For large groups, a phone call in the morning is appreciated so the site can make sure to prepare enough food.

“It’s important that kids have access to nutritious food to stay healthy all summer,” says Sheldon. “Thanks to the summer program, children get quality meals, and their families get some peace of mind.”

For more information or to find sites serving free meals this summer, call 1-866-3-Hungry or visit

Program(s) Involved: Community Wellness Projects