On average, families spend an additional $300 each month on food during the summer. Working parents who know their children are safe, supervised and fed during the school year must make other arrangements for their kids in the summer.
In Arkansas, there are about 280,000 children who are eligible for reduced price meals at their schools during the school year. So what happens during the summer months?
That is where volunteers and non-profits across the state have worked to fill the gap by opening the doors of their churches, community centers, and schools to be a summer meal site.
This summer close to 200 sites are available for children in our state. The meals are paid for by the Department of Agriculture and must meet certain guidelines to ensure proper nutrition.
Parents do not need to apply to the program to get a free summer meal for their kids, and it does not interfere with other benefits they may be receiving.
Arkansas ranks highest in the nation for food insecurity according to Feeding America’s Map the Meal Gap 2015 report.
In that report, 19.7 percent of households and 28.4 percent of children were unsure of where they will get their next meal. There are USDA authorized summer meals sites in almost every county in Arkansas. Parents and care givers can find a summer meals site in their communities by:
• Going to http://www.fns.usda.gov/summerfoodrocks interactive map that will show meal sites.
• Calling (866) 3-HUNGRY. A live operator will ask for your address and give you a list of sites.
• Texting FOOD to 877 877. You will be asked for your zip code and receive a list of sites in your area.
You can also help this summer by offering your time. The best sites have organized, well-run activities that keep the interest of the children and teens coming back to the site day after day. Some of these activities include arts and crafts, tutoring, reading programs, cooking or any other creative ideas you may have. Many sites have enlisted local fire and police departments and local businesses to make presentations. The only limitation is your imagination.