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Help Youth Find a Free Meal This Summer

2014 June 9
Free Summer Meals Hotline Poster

If you missed TechSoup’s May 28 Webinar, “Help Youth Find a Free Meal This Summer”, the recording and related resources are available online here.

However, if you don’t have time to view the archive right now, here are two critical takeaways from the event:

# 1 – If your library is not currently involved with sponsoring a free children’s summer meal program, you can still play a valuable role by providing accurate referrals to the community in need of this information. Here are three key resources to help you do just that, along with links to outreach material to help you spread the word within your community:

  • National Hunger Hotline: Need help finding food? Know someone who does? Call 1.866.3.HUNGRY (English) or 1.877.8.HAMBRE (Spanish) and get connected to food and local programs. Hours of operation are Monday – Friday, 9:00 a.m. to 6:00 p.m. EST . (Download National Hunger Hotline posters with these phone numbers in English or Spanish to post in your library).
  • WHYHunger Find Food Resource Directory: http://www.whyhunger.org/findfood . This online resource directory contains organizations that are part of the National Hunger Clearinghouse and WhyHunger’s Grassroots Action Network. It connects you to community-based organizations and government programs throughout the United States that are addressing hunger and poverty issues. Note that you can enter your search terms and then click the “Find Summer Meals” button in order to restrict your search to Summer Food Service Program sites. I ran a sample search for summer meals with the word “Library” in the Organization field here in Texas, and obtained a list of 45 summer meal sites associated with a Texas library. To view detailed information about the sites, click the organization’s name. Scroll to the very bottom of the list and note that it can be printed and/or exported in Excel format. (Additional outreach material is available here.)
  • Range (http://www.rangeapp.org) is a mobile app that helps locate free summer meals for youth. This is its debut summer, with sites being added/updated weekly. Already a powerful tool, look for continuous improvements and new features in the months ahead. (Download and print Range posters, palm cards and information sheets here.)

# 2 –  Although it is too late to sign your library up to be a free summer meal program sponsor for this summer, you might want to consider it for next summer if you think there is a need in your community. To officially qualify as a site for the program, your library needs to be located in a community where at least 50 percent of children residing in the area are eligible for free and reduced-price school meals, based on local school or census data. The meals are then served free to any child at the site on a first-come, first-serve basis without any identification or application process of any kind. It was also mentioned during the Webinar that oftentimes meals can be made available for adults accompanying the children for a small fee. Becoming a program sponsor might be a great solution not just for the children in need, but for staff members who are concerned about the nutritional well-being of these young library-goers. Also, many libraries who are summer meal program sponsors have found the program to be a perfect complement to their children’s summer reading program(s). For other libraries, it is an opportunity to offer meals in conjunction with programming on nutrition or container gardening. Still another huge benefit of participating in the program is the opportunity to work collaboratively with community partners. To find out more about becoming a sponsor, please visit the USDA’s Food and Nutrition Service Summer Food Service Program’s How To Become A Sponsor page.

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