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Free meals to help feed 400,000 children this summer

ALBANY - Parents are reminded that while the school year is drawing to a close, thousands of children remain eligible for free, nutritious meals at hundreds of sites around New York State this summer. State agencies are working with nonprofit and private partners to increase awareness of the Summer Food Service Program, which fills a gap for families that rely on free and reduced-price school meals during the school year to help feed their children.

Governor Andrew Cuomo also issued a proclamation marking July as Summer Meals Month in New York State to highlight the issue.

“No child should have to go hungry – and through the Summer Food Service Program we are working to feed hundreds of thousands of children who normally depend on their schools for free and reduced-price meals,” Governor Cuomo said. “This program is vital to New Yorkers all across the State, and our administration is committed to making sure that it reaches as many families in need as possible.”

The federally-funded Summer Food Service Program, administered by the New York State Education Department, provides free nutritious meals and snacks at participating sites, including schools, parks, recreation centers and other neighborhood locations. The program benefits children 18 years old and younger from low-income households, as well as to young adults over age 18 that are enrolled in school programs for persons with disabilities.

Approximately 400,000 children a day will receive meals through the program this summer. Many summer meal sites also offer fun activities, so children and teens can stay active and spend time with friends while enjoying healthy meals.

A recent study by the Food Research and Action Center (FRAC) notes that while the number of New York students participating in the program last year increased five percent over 2012; only an estimated three out of ten eligible students are being fed.

Various government agencies and non-profits are partnering to spread the word about the program, holding everything from local outreach events to disseminating information on social media using the #summermeals hashtag. The New York State Education Department has an interactive map online with information on all the summer meal sites in New York State that can be accessed here. The New York State Department of Health’s Growing Up Healthy Hotline, 1-800-522-5006, can also help locate a summer meal site in your community.