Kids 18 and younger eat free in summer

Staff Report

Published: 07-09-2023 4:00 PM

The Summer Eats program is in full swing across Massachusetts, providing free meals to children and teens 18 years old and younger at hundreds of meal sites statewide, including many in Hampshire County and Holyoke.

Throughout the school year, children in Massachusetts rely on free school meals to meet most of their daily nutrition needs, and Summer Eats serves to close the gap when the school year ends. In July 2022 alone, over 2.3 million meals were served across almost 1,500 sites in Massachusetts through the Summer Eats program, according to Project Bread, a statewide anti-hunger nonprofit that runs the program.

The nonprofit says that as of May, one in four households with children are experiencing food insecurity. This is nearly double the pre-pandemic numbers, and many families are still struggling to afford enough food more than three years after the pandemic first hit.

Summer Eats assists families by providing free meals to children and teens. Participating meal providers operate and staff meal sites, often in conjunction with activities and educational programming. All are welcome. No registration or ID is required.

Here are the locations for Summer Eats at communities throughout Hampshire County:

■Millside Park, 2 Ferry St., Easthampton.

■ Florence Heights, 98 Florence Heights, Unit 8D, Florence

■ Meadowbrook Apartments, 491 Bridge Road, Florence

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■ Hampshire Heights, 241 Jackson St., Unit 19C, Northampton

■Butternut Farms, 11 Longmeadow Drive, Amherst

■Renew Amherst Apartments, 266 E. Hadley St., Amherst

■Groff Park Athletics, 83 Mill Lane, Amherst

■ Rolling Green, 1 Rolling Green Dr., Amherst

■ Colonial Village, 81 Belchertown Road, Amherst

■Village Park, 497 East Pleasant St., Amherst

■ Olympia Oaks, 85 Olympia Drive, Amherst

■ North Square @ Mill District, 75 Cowls Road, Amherst

■ Mill River Recreation Area, 95 Montegue Road, Amherst

■Chestnut Hill Community School, 59 State St., Belchertown

“Hunger doesn’t disappear in the summer,” Erin McAleer, Project Bread CEO, said in a press release. “The same students who count on universal free school meals for more than half their daily nutrition are at risk for summer hunger and learning loss when school is on break and those meals are unavailable. Meal providers and staff bring the community together and take some of the pressure off of families’ grocery budgets, going above and beyond to make healthy meals easy to access for all kids and teens.”

Families previously eligible to receive Pandemic-EBT (P-EBT) during the 2022-2023 school year will qualify to continue to receive this benefit ($120 per child per family) over the summer. P-EBT is a federal child nutrition program created during the COVID-19 public health emergency to promote increased food security for students who are eligible for free or reduced-price school meals through the United States Department of Agriculture’s National School Lunch Program and missed school due to COVID-19. To see who qualifies, visit: Mass.gov.

For more information about Summer Eats, including meal site locations, visit www.projectbread.org/summer-eats, text FOOD or COMIDA to 304-304, or call 1-800-645-8333 for help in any language.

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