Your support and efforts have paid off! Congress recently passed a game-changing bill that allows non-congregate summer meals options for rural communities. This is a significant victory for millions of children and families.
But what does “non-congregate” mean? Essentially, instead of requiring children to gather in one central location to receive their summer meals, the meals are distributed in a way that allows for children to eat at home. Non-congregate feeding options can include things like community groups delivering meals directly to family homes or “grab-and-go” programs where parents and caregivers can pick up bagged meals at local schools or sites to eat at home.
In rural areas, it can be difficult for children to access centralized meal sites due to transportation challenges or geographic barriers. Sometimes they may live far from schools and community centers, or parents may be at work and unable to bring them to the distribution sites.
“We are very excited about it,” said Sam Figueroa, food operations manager at the Caroline County School District in Maryland. “We [Caroline County] are very spread out, and it's hard for a lot of our families to get to us, to get to those summer meals. This will allow us to go to them.”
Summer is the hungriest time of the year for millions of kids. During the school year, many children rely on school programs that offer lunch and, in many cases, breakfast and supper, but when school is out for summer vacation, many of those meals disappear.
Thanks to pandemic waivers, Caroline County was able to experiment with non-congregate feeding and see the difference it can make in their summer meals program. They were able to reach families like Penny Davis and her grandchildren.
“If the bus didn’t come here, I would get none of those meals,” Davis shared. “I have no transportation at all… They save the day. They really do because my grandchildren love the food that you guys give them. They get their milk, they get their orange juice, their apple juice, a healthy meal in the morning, one for lunch. It’s amazing.”
Figueroa talked about the striking difference before having the non-congregate option. She recalled a meals site near a church in a community where she knows people need summer meals.
“We couldn't get kids to come out,” she said, explaining that maybe they would get eight families who would be able to make it each day. Many of them had to walk over a mile to get to the distribution site. With the non-congregate option, in the same area surrounding the church, they were able to distribute between 100 and 130 meals. And the same was true for other distribution sites.
The pandemic taught Caroline County, and other school districts across the country a lot about the need in their communities, but also a lot about what they could do to meet this need.
“We learned that we could do it,” explained Figueroa. “You had to get a little creative; and we were lucky we had a lot of good partnerships to step up, and volunteers and really who saw the need as well.”
With your support and donations to No Kid Hungry, not only were we able to raise our voice about this important legislation, but we also provided districts like Caroline County with buses, coolers and strategic support in the implementation of non-congregate meal sites.
“Thank you for advocating for us,” said Figueroa. “Thank you for putting the forum out there for all of us to speak and for giving us the tools we need. No Kid Hungry listens to our struggles and we know they have helped us achieve a lot in our county.”
Penny Davis, her grandchildren (Leta, Noah, Nathan, Lucas, Preston, Christopher and Trent) and millions of kids in rural communities across America can rest at ease this summer. Thanks to the new laws and the incredible work of school districts, they will have access to the nutrition they need to thrive and that they would otherwise not get in these challenging summer months.
Ways You Can Help
Even with this historic victory, 1 in 8 kids in America lives with hunger. With your support, we know we will make No Kid Hungry a reality in the United States.
Donate. Just $10 can help provide up to 100 meals for kids. No Kid Hungry works with schools, community organizations and local leaders across the country to connect kids to the food they need. Your generous donations will help end summer hunger for kids across the country.
Take Action. Tell your lawmaker to protect SNAP and other federal nutrition programs that feed kids.
Spread the Word. With school out for the summer, families need help feeding their children. No Kid Hungry runs a texting hotline - just text the word FOOD (or COMIDA) to 304-304 to find free meals sites in your neighborhood.