Want free, healthy lunches for your kids this summer? This tool can help
The interactive map and texting hotline is provided by No Kid Hungry in partnership with the Florida Department of Agriculture and Consumer Services. This year, the resource is also available via WhatsApp.
Over the summer, many school-aged kids lose access to consistent, healthy meals.
"It's just a really challenging time, it's a hungry time of the year for children who have relied on those meals,” said Sky Bearc, Florida director of No Kid Hungry.
In Florida, feeding a family of four a reasonably healthy diet in 2021 cost about $1,200 a month, according to Feeding America. Data from the same year shows that one in eight kids were facing hunger in Hillsborough, Pinellas, Pasco and Polk counties.
SMS texting hotline:
Text FOOD or COMIDA to 304-304.
Search “NoKidHungry.org/WhatsApp” on an internet browser. Click on “Continue to Chat,” which will prompt you to open, or download, WhatsApp. Proceed in the app.
Beard said these factors, paired with the impacts of high inflation and climbing grocery bills, make it especially difficult for families to shoulder additional food costs during the summer months.
A poll conducted by No Kid Hungry in January revealed that food insecurity is widespread, with three in four Florida families struggling to put food on the table compared to last year.
“It's important to recognize that every community is facing child hunger, but there are definitely pockets where the need is greater,” Beard said.
To help fill the gap in affordable and available meals, Beard encouraged families to use the Free Meals Finder tool.
The interactive map and texting hotline is provided by No Kid Hungry in partnership with the Florida Department of Agriculture and Consumer Services.
VIEW INTERACTIVE MAP: Free Meals Finder via No Kid Hungry
This year, No Kid Hungry is expanding the resource to WhatsApp, a popular messaging platform among Spanish speakers.
Despite a growing need for food security across all working families, fewer Spanish speakers used the hotline than English speakers last summer. Beard hopes this effort will make the tool more accessible to Latino households across Florida.
“We also wanted to make sure that we were meeting families where they are — and this year launched a partnership with WhatsApp. And so we're really excited to see through that partnership if we are able to reach additional families."
The tool, which launched in 2013, began as a summer-specific resource for families. Now, the tool is updated year-round.
As the need for food assistance grows in Florida, Beard said the meal-finder tool will also continue to evolve.
Gabriella Paul covers the stories of people living paycheck to paycheck in the greater Tampa Bay region for WUSF. She's also a Report for America corps member. Here’s how you can share your story with her.
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