Summer meal programs combat hunger for children and teens

Pupils collecting lunchLast week we shared five strategies to combat summer learning loss. But there is another important summer consideration for thousands of kids: lack of healthy food.

Over 250,000 children in Orange County depend on free or reduced-price meals during the school year. But when schools close for the summer, the prospect of being hungry or losing a balanced and nutritious meal is a reality for far too many of our kids.

Summer food programs throughout the county fill this gap.

These programs, which include the Summer Food Services Program and the Seamless Summer Feeding Option, offer free nutritious meals for children and teens up to 18 years old. The programs are designed to make it easy and convenient for kids to get a meal. Families can go to any meal site. There is no registration or application required. No questions asked, no income verification needed.

Dareen Abdrabou, an OCDE nutrition education and obesity prevention coordinator, knows the food gap all too well and reiterates that lack of access to healthy meals may contribute to “summer learning loss” in children of all ages.

“Providing nutritious meals to children during the summer break is critical to their growth, development and learning,” she stresses. “We have to work together to make sure that children are not only mentally and physically stimulated this summer, but nourished and able to sustain healthy eating habits as well.”

Summer meal programs are offered at various locations, including over 95 Orange County schools. This Orange County Summer Food 2015 list has the summer meal sites in Orange County.