How Kids Can Get Free Summer Meals in All 50 States and Washington, D.C.

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How Kids Can Get Free Summer Meals in All 50 States and Washington, D.C.
Children eat a free lunch at Northside Boys and Girls Club Monday, June 5, 2017 in St. Petersburg, Fla. The lunches are provided to low-income children by the USDA Summer Food Service Program. Tina Russell/The Penny Hoarder

For millions of children, summertime isn’t a carefree vacation.

Children who receive free meals at school during the academic year often struggle to find similar support during the summer.

To curb this problem, the U.S. Department of Agriculture offers the Summer Food Service Program to make sure low-income children still have access to nutritious meals over summer.

How big of an impact does the summer food program make? The USDA plans to serve more than 200 million free meals to children this summer at designated food sites in each state.

How to Access the USDA Summer Food Service Program

Brittanee Harris serves bagged lunches to children at Northside Boys and Girls Club. “I think it’s very important,” said Harris. “It helps parents because they may not have the means to provide a lunch.” Tina Russell/The Penny Hoarder

To find out if you meet the income requirements for free meals, check this chart here.

Free food sites range from schools to independently sponsored locations. Certain states have their own site maps and requirements, and the USDA provides a national location-finder map.

For information on sites near you, call the National Hunger Hotline at 1-866-3-HUNGRY or 1-877-8 HAMBRE for a Spanish-speaking operator. You can also text “FOOD” to 877-877 or “HAMBRE” to 877-877 for a reply in Spanish.

Read below to learn about how to find free meal sites in your state and application details, if necessary.

1. Alabama

Break for a Plate in Alabama provides two free meals each day to kids and teens up to 18 years old. To participate, use the location finder to search for programs in your area.   

2. Alaska

Find SFSP sites in Alaska by using the USDA map.

3. Arizona

The Arizona Department of Education’s website says that sites also provide low-cost meals for adults in addition to free meals for children. Use the location finder for spots in your area.

4. Arkansas

Arkansas requires parents to contact their child’s school to apply for the SFSP. Eligibility depends on income and household size. Use the USDA map for sites in your area.

5. California

Use the USDA map locate a food site near you.

6. Colorado

Call Colorado’s Hunger Free Hotline at 855-855-4626, or use the USDA map.

7. Connecticut

End Hunger Connecticut lists summer meal sites, as well as operating dates and times. The site currently says to check back mid-June for open locations.

8. Delaware

Use the USDA map to find SFSP locations in Delaware.

9. Florida

A child eats a free sandwich at Northside Boys and Girls Club. Tina Russell/The Penny Hoarder

Florida’s Summer BreakSpot Program doesn’t require an application — all you have to do is show up during mealtimes. Some sites also offer enrichment activities for children at a low cost, which you can find out about if you call the site ahead of time. Find local sites here.  

10. Georgia

To find local sites in Georgia, call 855-550-SFSP, text “FOODGA” to 877-877, or visit the national site finder.

11. Hawaii

Visit the summer food site map on Hawaii.gov to find the 2016 locations. The 2017 sites aren’t listed yet, but you can call Aloha United Way at 211 to find a local site. The income level limits are a bit higher for Hawaii than for other states.

12. Idaho

Use the national site finder to find locations in Idaho and contact them to apply for the SFSP. You could also call the Idaho Department of Education at 208-332-6821

13. Illinois

To apply for SFSP in Illinois, contact the state’s nutrition program office at 217-782-2491. Details are available here.

14. Indiana

Find local food sites in Indiana with this interactive map. You can even search by meal type or day of the week meals are offered.  

15. Iowa

Iowa’s website provides an alphabetical list of its food sites, or you could use the USDA locator.

16. Kansas

The Kansas Department of Education site provides a list of SFSP locations by city.

17. Kentucky

To find a summer meal service site in Kentucky, refer to the interactive USDA map.

18. Louisiana

Use the interactive USDA map to locate a food site near you.

19. Maine

For summer meal sites in Maine, refer to the interactive USDA map.

20. Maryland

Use the Maryland summer meals site search map to find a location near you. The map includes hours and days of operation, plus directions to each site.

21. Massachusetts

Benefits.gov says that to apply for SFSP in Massachusetts, contact a school near you. School contact information can be found here.   

22. Michigan

In Michigan, the SFSP is also known as “Meet Up and Eat Up.” Use the USDA map to find a location near you. This calendar lists additional events at food sites, such as ice-cream socials and family cookouts.

23. Minnesota

Minnesota Public Schools, which administers the state’s SFSP program, released a free app, Summer Eats Minnesota, to help kids find meal sites. The state has more than 80 sites, and kids under 18 don’t need to sign up in advance to take advantage of the program. The app even shows daily menus.

24. Mississippi

To apply for the SFSP, contact the Office of Child Nutrition at 601-354-7015. Once you’ve applied, use the USDA map to locate a food site near you.

25. Missouri

The Missouri Department of Health provides a map of summer food sites. It also has a mobile- friendly version of the map. Contact your local site to apply for the SFSP.  

26. Montana

To find free summer meals in Montana, use the interactive USDA map, or call the Montana Food Bank Network at 800-809-4752.

27. Nebraska

Check the USDA map to find locations serving summer meals.

28. Nevada

Find out where kids can get up to two meals each day by checking the Nevada Department of Agriculture site list for northern or southern Nevada.

29. New Hampshire

Check the USDA map to find locations serving summer meals.

30. New Jersey

The New Jersey Department of Agriculture has a list of meal sites on the right side of this page.

31. New Mexico

No registration or application is required for kids to receive meals in New Mexico. Use the New Mexico Summer Food Service Program interactive map to find a site near you.

32. New York

New York City public school students can apply for summer meal service. Beyond the five boroughs, use the interactive USDA map.

33. North Carolina

Check the USDA map to find locations serving summer meals. Families in central and eastern North Carolina can download a list of sites serving those areas.

34. North Dakota

The North Dakota Department of Public Instruction maintains a list of sites offering summer meals.

35. Ohio

Check the Ohio Department of Education’s interactive map to find locations and serving times near you. No sign-up is required. The state also offers an app to assist in site location.

36. Oklahoma

Use the Food for Thought Summer Food Program interactive map to find feeding sites across Oklahoma.

37. Oregon

Select your city from the list to view a map of summer food sites in Oregon.

38. Pennsylvania

Check the USDA map to find locations serving summer meals.

39. Rhode Island

Use the USDA map to find summer food sites in Rhode Island.

40. South Carolina

Check the USDA map to find locations serving summer meals.

41. South Dakota

Families in South Dakota can review a list of summer meal sites, or use the USDA map to find a location.

42. Tennessee

Use the USDA map to find summer food sites in Tennessee.

43. Texas

The Texas Department of Agriculture offers an interactive map to locate summer food sites and contact information.

44. Utah

Use the nationwide map to find summer food sites. You can also view flyers for various school districts sponsoring summer food programs detailing meal times and locations.

45. Vermont

Check the USDA map to find locations serving summer meals.

46. Virginia

Check the USDA map to find locations serving summer meals.

47. Washington

Use the USDA location finder to determine your nearest site.

48. West Virginia

The West Virginia Department of Education provides a list of every site statewide, contact information for each site, days the site is open and mealtimes.

49. Wisconsin

Check Wisconsin’s Open Food Sites Map to find a location near you.

50. Wyoming

Use the USDA map to find locations serving summer meals.

51. Washington, D.C.

Use the USDA map to find summer meal sites in Washington, D.C.

Jacquelyn Pica is an editorial intern at The Penny Hoarder. Lisa Rowan also contributed to this report.