Free Summer Kids’ Meals—Just Call 211 | United Way of Metropolitan Dallas

Free Summer Kids’ Meals—Just Call 211

For North Texas children who might go hungry this summer, full tummies are just a three-digit call away: 211.

During a normal school year, many parents rely on school districts to provide their children with nutritious lunchtime and after-school meals: 89 percent of Dallas Independent School District students qualify for free or reduced-price meals during school months.

This year, the coronavirus meant school was “out” in early spring, with children transitioning to learning from home. Immediately, schools and nonprofits stepped in to continue meal service so that those kids didn’t go hungry.

KEEPING IT GOING

Now that summer’s here, that effort continues apace: The North Texas Summer & Supper Council (NTSSC) is taking the lead in a collaborative effort to recognize and highlight the importance of continuing to serve meals to children during this uniquely challenging summer. To access the council’s resources, anyone can call 211 or text 877877.

United Way of Metropolitan Dallas and the Baylor Collaborative on Hunger and Poverty’s Texas Hunger Initiative established the NTSSC—composed of summer meals sponsors—in Fall 2013. The council works to create an environment where providers join forces to ensure that no child suffers hunger when school isn’t in session.

Throughout the summer, school districts and local nonprofits will continue to serve meals to any child (up to age 18), while implementing safe COVID-19 practices to protect staff, families and volunteers, said Catherine Nicholson, regional director of the Texas Hunger Initiative (North Texas). Safeguards include daily temperature checks of staff and volunteers, use of masks and gloves, non-communal feeding, and socially distanced meal operations.

“Now more than ever, the summer meals program is needed,” Nicholson said. “Kids are already missing out on so much this year. Graduations, summer camps and birthday parties have been canceled. Parks, recreation centers and public swimming pools are all closed.”

“Kids are already not getting the ‘normal’ summer experience. We can make sure that missing meals is not part of that—to not let hunger be part of their summer.”

TOGETHER, LET’S DO MORE

It’s more than just feeding; it’s getting the word out. Texas has one of the lowest summer meals participation rates in the country, ranking 48th in reaching children in need. Only 14 percent of the nearly three million Texas children who receive free or reduced-price school meals access summer meals programs. So even if you don’t need this service, someone does. Tell everyone you know—spread the message that meals are available!

These programs help the entire community: With the assurance that their children are fed, parents can concentrate on work, learning and other pressing concerns. Staff and volunteers also reap benefits, through a sense of service and collaboration with neighbors.

“They’re for everyone,” Nicholson said. “It’s the biggest favor you could do for your community, to go participate in this, in whatever way you can or need to. It’s keeping kids fed, people employed; it’s doing so much good.”

Ashley Douglas, director of Southern Dallas Thrives at United Way, agreed. The council’s work and these programs, she said, constitute “a big win-win-win in that full circle of health, education and income” that puts opportunity in the hands of all North Texans.

 

To locate summer meal sites nearby, families can call 211 and give their ZIP code, or text the word “FOOD” or “COMIDA” to 877877.

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United Way of Metropolitan Dallas is a community-based social change organization that puts opportunity in the hands of all North Texans. Working with our determined supporters, we lead the charge to improve education, income and health—the building blocks of opportunity. We invite all change-seekers in our community to Live United to achieve lasting results right here at home.

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This article was published on: Jun 26, 2020