How DC kids can get free meals at over 100 sites all summer

Here's info on the DC Youth Meals Program, how some families can get extra money for food and what we know about child hunger in our region

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"Hunger doesn't take a summer break." That's what D.C. officials said about the need for free meals for kids over the summer.

All D.C. residents age 18 and younger can get free meals at over 100 locations citywide from Wednesday, June 26 through Sunday, Aug. 25.

No application or identification is needed. Go here to find a meal site.

The hours of individual meal sites vary, as well as whether they serve breakfast, lunch, dinner or multiple meals.

The DC Youth Meals Program, administered by the D.C. Office of the State Superintendent of Education, provides meals all summerlong, as school is out of session and many kids who usually get meals at school aren’t there every day.

D.C. Mayor Muriel Bowser said she wants to let residents know about the meal program.

“We want everyone to help us spread the word about the resources we have available to support families, especially our free meals sites. Let’s work together to have a safe, fun, and healthy summer,” she said in a statement.

The DC Summer Meals Program has provided more than 6.6 million meals to young people since its start in 2012, according to the D.C. Office of the State Superintendent of Education.

How some DC families can get extra money for food

Families also can get money for food via DC SUN Bucks. It’s a summer benefits program that replaces Summer EBT, D.C. officials said. Eligible students will receive a one-time $120 EBT benefit for food.

Families with SNAP or TANF are preapproved and will get the benefits automatically, officials said. Families not preapproved for SUN Bucks can submit a short online application. Go here for more info.

The D.C. Council gave final approval to next year’s budget after months of back and forth with the mayor. News4’s Mark Segraves reports on what got cut and what was saved.

DC mom Prokoshia Long-Opher, who has six kids, says the grocery bills quickly add up.

“To be able to get the extra assistance, it does take a heavy weight off our shoulders,” Long-Opher added. “It’s something that’s not just a weight lifted off of my household; it’s a weight lifted off households across the nation.”

Her family is one of thousands that’s getting some help thanks to the new USDA program. 

In DC, the Sun Bucks program is open to students pre-K to high school, or adult learners, at either DCPS or a private school that offers the national school lunch program. The household income limit is 185% of the federal poverty level. For a family of four, that’s a household income of less than $55,500.

Maryland and Virginia are also expected to roll out Sun Bucks in the coming weeks.

“If your children were receiving free lunch or free breakfast at school, they definitely qualify for this program,” said President and CEO of the Capital Area Food Bank, Radha Muthia. 

If families qualify but haven’t received the money yet, they can apply online.

What we know about hunger among DC kids

The Capital Area Food Bank surveyed more than 5,200 residents of the D.C. area in spring 2023 and found that 35% of D.C. residents who responded were food insecure. They asked 18 standard questions from the USDA on consistent access to food. Food insecurity disproportionately affects families with children, they found.

Many residents of our region were hit hard by a combination of social and economic factors at once, the Capital Area Food Bank’s 2023 Hunger Report says.

“This year’s survey results show that the major drivers of food insecurity among residents of our region included the pandemic's ongoing impacts on employment, high rates of inflation, and the rollback of pandemic government assistance programs. Any one of these forces could cause difficult financial trade-offs for low-income individuals and families without any margin in their household budget, but many people experienced two or more of them simultaneously,” the report says.

The group found that about 10% of children in our region are experiencing food insecurity. In some households, adults were food insecure but prioritized feeding their children first, sometimes sacrificing their own meals.

Factors that contribute to food insecurity in D.C. include transportation access, housing costs and child care costs, D.C. Hunger Solutions found.

D.C. saw a 10% increase from fall 2022 to fall 2023 in children participating in the National School Lunch Program, D.C. Hunger Solutions said. Similarly, about 10% more children participated in the School Breakfast Program from fall 2022 to fall 2023.

After serving families in need for over three decades during the holidays, NBC4 and Telemundo44 announced that Food 4 Families will be a year-round campaign.  

NBC4 has provided thousands of meals to people in need over the holidays for more than 25 years. But we know hunger is not just a holiday problem. Go here to learn how you can help through our Food 4 Families program.

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