Help hungry families afford the food they need

 
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Summer vacation. For many, the thought of those precious few months away from school bring back happy memories of days spent playing with friends, going to the beach, or enjoying a swim at a local pool. Unfortunately for too many children in the Philadelphia area, summer also brings hungry stomachs.

Families with children who receive free or reduced price school meals often rely on those programs and leaves many of scrambling to provide enough during the summer. According to the Food Research and Action Center (FRAC), only one in five Pennsylvania children who participate in the school lunch program also participate in summer meals. It is imperative that we all help spread the word about FREE summer meals that are offered at more than 1,000 sites in the Philadelphia region!

Kids and teenagers up to 18-years-old are able to receive free meals with no registration, ID, or proof of income required. To help raise awareness for the program, the Greater Philadelphia Coalition Against Hunger held a press conference on Tuesday, June 23, at Aquinas Center in South Philadelphia. The kids present received lunch and listened to remarks by Deputy Mayor of Philadelphia Rich Negrin, USDA Representative James Harmon, Anne Ayella from the Archdiocese of Philadelphia, and Noelle Dames of the Coalition Against Hunger. In addition, Philadelphia Eagles Mascot SWOOP was there to show his support for the program!

In an effort to reach more children and teens this year, the Coalition worked with AFRICOM Philadelphia to translate outreach materials into nine languages! This effort, coupled with phone calls from Mayor Michael Nutter and Philadelphia Eagles player Jon Dorenbos that will go to all families with school-aged children in Philadelphia, will help us connect more children and teenagers to summer meals.

Once again, the Coalition Against Hunger is hosting the Summer Meals Hotline to make it easy for people to find their nearest summer meals site. Those in need of summer meals should call 1-855-252-MEAL (6325), text "FOOD" to 877877, or visit www.phillysummermeals.org for a searchable map.

Together, let’s make sure no kid goes hungry in Philadelphia this summer!

Press conference at Aquinas Center
Press conference at Aquinas Center
SWOOP showing his love for summer meals!
SWOOP showing his love for summer meals!

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Too many students in Pennsylvania schools are missing the most important meal of the day. A recent Food Research and Action Center (FRAC) report found that just 45 percent of low-income children who eat lunch at school are also eating breakfast, ranking Pennsylvania 41st, nationwide. This not only affects a child's health, but also has been shown to have a negative impact on school performance.

In an effort to increase school breakfast participation, the Greater Philadelphia Coalition Against Hunger, along with other agencies statewide, has once again launched the Pennsylvania School Breakfast Challenge. The inaugural Challenge in 2014 saw more than 1,100 schools take part, with Feltonville School of Arts and Sciences in Philadelphia earning first place. Feltonville's breakfast participation increased from 29 percent to 77 percent in one year's time.

We believe that even more schools can begin to offer breakfast to students across the state thanks to the second School Breakfast Challenge, which will begin in the fall of 2015. Thanks to supporters like you, students throughout the state will have access to nutritious breakfast to help them perform well in the classroom.

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The results are in! We published our 2014 Summer Meals Hotline Report and we are thrilled to announce that through our hotline, we connected 4,523 children in Philadelphia to summer meal locations. 

Thanks to your support, we were once again able to operate our summer meals hotline and it proved even more popular this year. The total number of children connected to summer meals through the hotline in 2014 showed a 31 percent increase over 2013. While we advertised the hotline in many ways (robocalls, media, fliers), the most effective referral source was simply by word of mouth.

Many low income families struggle to provide meals once school lets out. Summer meals allows for no child to go hungry during the warmer months. According to Mayor Michael Nutter's office, 4,088,515 free meals were served to area youth over the summer. We will continue to staff our hotline for as long as needed to ensure that all children have the food they need to lead healthy lives.

Thank you for your role in helping to make last summer great for children in the Philadelphia area! 

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On any given day, many people choose to skip a meal to save money or time. For millions of children across the country, however, there is no choice to make…because there is no food to eat.

Thanks to supporters like you, thousands of children in Philadelphia were able to receive free meals this summer at over 1,000 sites throughout the city. Our Philly Summer Meals Hotline and text messaging service proved wildly successful in connecting families to the nearest site to receive free meals. While the Greater Philadelphia Coalition Against Hunger was able to help these families with children over the summer, we are happy to report that children in Pennsylvania will continue to receive free meals now that school has begun.


The Community Eligibility Provision went into effect this year and it allows schools to offer free or reduced cost meals to every student, regardless of the financial status of the student’s family. Prior to this year, a student had to qualify in order to receive a meal. This is a huge win for hunger fighters like you everywhere and its impact is especially felt in large school districts such as Philadelphia. According to early data collected by the state Department of Education, this new program will feed about 300,000 Pennsylvania students this year. About one third of these students come from families that would not have otherwise qualified for a free lunch.

As you can see in the video here, hungry students are a real concern for teachers. Thanks to you, we were able to keep students nourished with healthy food over the summer, and now that will extend throughout the year thanks to the new Community Eligibility Provision.

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Free summer meals for kids
Free summer meals for kids

“How many of you sometimes go to bed hungry?”

A few weeks ago, Philadelphia Deputy Mayor Richard Negrin asked that question to a roomful of young children at a local YMCA.

Several small hands shot up. Other boys and girls nodded.

These children aren’t alone. In Philadelphia, one in four children are considered food insecure.

During the school year, an estimated 160,000 children receive free or reduced-price meals at school. But when school is out, many of them miss out on the food and nutrition they need to stay healthy and active all summer long.

That’s why the Greater Philadelphia Coalition Against Hunger is working to connect thousands of children in our city with free summer meals. Kids and teens 18 and under can eat free meals at more than 1,000 sites across the city, including playgrounds, recreation centers, places of worship, community organizations and more.

Despite the importance of this program, nearly half of low-income children in Philadelphia are still missing out on summer meals.

Thanks to supporters like you, we’re working to change that. Our Philly Summer Meals Hotline and text messaging service help families find their nearest summer meals site. And we’ve partnered with the Mayor’s Office, community leaders and organizations to spread the word: No child should go hungry while school is out.

Toward the end of Deputy Mayor Negrin’s visit to the YMCA, all of the children sat down at their tables to eat their summer meal--a turkey sandwich on wheat bread, carrot sticks, fruit and low-fat milk.

The consensus? “Pretty good,” as one 7-year-old put it.

We couldn’t agree more. With your help, we’re confident that we’ll be seeing a lot more kids and teens enjoying some “pretty good” meals this summer, too.

Girls enjoy a free summer meal.
Girls enjoy a free summer meal.
Group photo!
Group photo!
Philadelphia Eagles player Jon Dorenbos
Philadelphia Eagles player Jon Dorenbos

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Project Leader

Laura Wall

Philadelphia, PA United States

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Map of Help hungry families afford the food they need