School Is Out, but Summer Meals Are In!

By United Way of King County, on July 10, 2023 | In Helping Students Graduate, News

Parents, teens and kids take note: United Way of King County is dishing up free summer meals at a location near you. The 2023 Free Summer Meals Program launched recently, providing tasty, nutritious meals for kids and teens ages 18 and under—with some sites also offering additional resources for older family members.

United Way is leading a statewide campaign to end summer hunger in partnership with our state education agency, the Office of the Superintendent of Public Instruction. Together, we’re working to make access to healthy food as quick and easy as possible: The campaign is open to all without any paperwork or identification needed and sites include schools, parks, community centers and faith-based organizations.

Some sites even offer fun activities to help kids stay active and engaged when school is out.

This year’s Free Summer Meals Program aims to serve 500,000 meals in King County this year, reaching more than 12,000 youth per day. There will be nearly 900 meal sites in Washington this year, including more than 200 in King County.

This year’s Free Summer Meals Program offerings will be tastier and more culturally specific.

Helping facilitate the Summer Meals campaign is United Way’s HungerCorps team, young adults who regularly work with food banks and community-based organizations to connect families with the food they need.

“We’re excited to have 62 summer HungerCorps members serving with us this year,” said Sara Seelmeyer, United Way associate director for ending hunger. “Summer HungerCorps members help launch new meal sites, make sites feel fun and welcoming for families, and conduct grassroots outreach throughout the community.

“This is our most diverse cohort to date, with most members hailing from and serving in South Seattle and South King County,” Seelmeyer added. “As a cohort, summer HungerCorps members speak 15 different languages; their backgrounds range from retired teachers to recent high school graduates.”

Seelmeyer said that United Way has also worked to make dishes offered in the Free Summer Meals Program “tastier and more culturally specific.” United Way has partnered with the Food Innovation Network, a Tukwila-based organization that is working with local chefs of color to serve culturally appropriate, halal-friendly meals each week at the Tukwila Farmers Market.

And in Seattle, the school district is purchasing local foods, including salmon from the Muckleshoot Indian Tribe, for its meal program.

“Summer hunger is a serious problem nationwide, including here in Washington,” said Madeleine Vistica, United Way food security program manager. Vistica added that one out of every six children in Washington experience food insecurity, which is defined by the USDA as “a lack of consistent access to enough food for every person in a household to live an active, healthy life.”

“Every year when school comes to an end, food insecurity becomes an even greater threat, as children who normally access free meals at school are left without this essential resource during summer months,” Vistica added. “The Free Summer Meals Program serves to address this gap and offers meals with no application, no proof of income and no identification necessary.”


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