For literally millions of U.S. kids, summer break from school means hunger. More than 20 million children get free or reduced-price lunches on an average school day but only 6 out of 7 access free summer meals that they are qualified to receive, according to the U.S. Department of Agriculture.
Georgia, the federal government and many local charities offer summer food programs for kids so they don’t have to be hungry when they are not in school. I wanted to highlight some of the programs available to families in Georgia.
But first a few stats on hungry children in America.
- “More than 16 million children in America are at risk of hunger. That’s more than 1 in 5.
- 15.7 million children in America live in poverty.
- 18.6 million children benefit from SNAP (food stamps).
- Over 20 million children get a free or reduced-price school lunch on an average school day.
- Only 10.5 million children get a free or reduced-price school breakfast on an average school day.
- 6 out of 7 children who qualify for a free or reduced-price school lunch do not currently access free summer meals.
Sources: U.S. Dept. of Agriculture; U.S. Census Bureau; Food Research and Action Center. For more statistics, please visit our Hunger Facts Page.”
There are multiple state, federal and privately-funded charities that help feed children during the summer. Below are links to many of the sites that can help you find food for your kids during the summer.
Georgia’s Department of Education participates in the Seamless Summer program where students are still able to get food from their schools even during the summer. If you are between 1 and 18 you can just walk up to listed locations to get a free meal. Some sites include breakfast as well. Here is more information on the program:
“An Opportunity for Schools
Kids still need good food, even when school is out. Now it’s easy to accommodate them! You can apply to operate the Seamless Summer Option through the National School Lunch (NSLP) or School Breakfast Programs (SBP). Continue the same meal service rules and claiming procedures used during the regular school year. Although the traditional Summer Food Service Program is still available to schools, the Seamless Summer Option offers a streamlined approach to feeding hungry children in your community.
How it Works
School Food Authorities (SFAs) participating in the NSLP or SBP are eligible to apply for the Seamless Summer Option. Once approved through their governing state agency, SFAs serve meals free of charge to children, 18 years and under, from low-income areas.
The types of sites allowed to participate in this option include:
- Open sites: all children eat free in communities where at least 50% of the children are eligible for free/reduced price school meals.
- Restricted open sites: sites that meet the open site criteria, explained above, but are later restricted for safety, control, or security reasons.
- Closed enrolled sites: may be in any community for an enrolled group of low-income children and meets the 50% criteria explained above. This excludes academic summer schools.
- Migrant sites: serving children of migrant families.
- Camps: residential or non-residential camps.
The same NSLP and SBP rules apply for meal service. Meals served are reimbursed at the NSLP and/or SBP “free” rates. For clarification on how the Seamless Summer Option differs from our other summer feeding options, we’ve created a comparison chart.
Review the Seamless Summer Option Question and Answer Guidance or contact your NSLP State Agency for more information on how to apply for the Seamless Summer Option.
Another program offered through Georgia is the Bright from the Start Summer Feed program. This is a link to their search engine where you can search via zip code for nutrition programs near you.
You can also text to find a location that is serving summer meals. Text “Free Food” to 877-877 and you’ll receive a message telling you to reply back with your address. Currently, it directs you to the Hunger Hotline but they are planning by June that it will give you the sites in your vicinity.
Need help finding food?
Know someone who does?
Call the National Hunger Hotline at
The National Hunger Clearinghouse collects and distributes information about programs that address the immediate and long-term needs of struggling families and individuals. The National Hunger Hotline (1-866-3 HUNGRY or 1-866-348-6479), refers people in need of emergency food assistance to food pantries, government programs, and model grassroots organizations that work to improve access to healthy, nutritious food, and build self-reliance.
As far as private charities go, Must Ministries is another group that I have heard a lot about from friends.
“MUST has sponsored the Summer Lunch Program since 1995 in Cobb and Cherokee Counties in an effort to answer that question. Last year, MUST Volunteers delivered 103,000 lunches to hungry children in Cobb and Cherokee Counties. This year, MUST is excited to expand this popular and impactful program to Douglas, Paulding, North Fulton and Gwinnett Communities, while continuing to grow the number of children served in Cobb and Cherokee, and plans to serve 180,000 nutritionally balanced summer lunches.”
Many of these groups are looking for volunteers as well. It would be a great way to teach kids how lucky they are to have food during the summer.
Please share these sites and phone numbers with your friends and neighbors. No child should go hungry just because school is out. Summer should be fun for everyone and not a time children dread because they know they won’t get breakfast or lunch!
What are other great ministries or programs that we can help people find around Georgia?