For Sacramento-area kids who need free meals during summer break, program has them covered

May 20, 2019

By Renée C. Byer

Summer vacation is almost here, and for children who rely on meals served at school, a program that helps fill the gap is ready to roll.

Schoolchildren invited from five Sacramento-area districts on Tuesday will celebrate the kickoff of Million Meals Summer, a federally funded program to provide free meals for children in need during the summer break.

The event is set for 10 a.m. on the west steps of the Capitol, according to a news release. Students will participate in games, activities and booths to explore and get to know the program.

Million Meals Summer is a Sacramento-area expansion of the Summer Food Service Program, a U.S. Department of Agriculture program that provides free meals for children 18 and younger during the summer. According to state data, 64 percent of students in the Sacramento City Unified School District qualify for free or reduced lunch, but one in four go hungry during the summer.

Pediatrician and state Sen. Richard Pan has been working with a coalition including the California Department of Education, community organizations, public libraries, local school districts, the United Way and others to increase access to free summer meals through Million Meals Summer. In the past two years, Sacramento County has seen a 20 percent increase in the number of meals served, according to the release.

This year, children can eat at any of 31 meal sites in Sacramento County, with nearly all locations providing lunch and some sites providing breakfast and snacks. The list of participating meal sites on the California Department of Education’s website will be updated throughout the summer.