As the federal Summer Meals Program kicks off for the 2023 season, state officials say that nearly 2 million summer meals were served to kids 18 and under in 2022.
Eric Scoville, a spokesman for the state Department of Education, said the education department is partnering with Connecticut Foodshare, University of Connecticut Extension, End Hunger Connecticut!, and the Rudd Center for Food Policy and Health to connect children with the program, which runs from June to the end of August.
In 2022, 72 meal sponsors offered free summer meals at 607 sites where more than 38,000 children were fed on a daily basis. More than 1.8 million meals were served.
Eligible meal sites – which are determined by the income levels in those communities, based on school eligibility for free or reduced price meals – can be day programs, summer schools and camps, Scoville said.
“Summer meals are an important tool to provide continued access to nutritious meals when school is out and contribute to combating summer learning loss,” according to Scoville.
The kick off in East Hartford on Saturday, June 24 will be hosted by End Hunger Connecticut! – a statewide anti-hunger nonprofit – as a fun event for families there and to bring awareness to the program.
The kickoff starts at 11 a.m., and will be held at End Hunger CT’s office parking lot at 800 Connecticut Boulevard. It will include free food, community organization tables, activities, and performers.
Molly Stadnicki, Program Manager at End Hunger CT!, said the list of sites that will offer summer meals will be released between the end of June/early July and will be available on the organization’s website. She said the public should check End Hunger’s social media pages for updates.
“Summer meals meet federal nutrition guidelines and are composed of milk, fruits, vegetables, grains, and meat or another protein,” Stadnicki said.
Kickoff events such as the one being held in East Hartford are good ways to let people know the program exists, Stadnicki said. There has already been one in New Haven and will be another one in Norwalk in July.
“They are usually pretty well attended.Towns will pair it with something else,” Stadnick said. While the End Hunger Connecticut! Parking lot is not a summer meal site, it will offer a fun time and a place where families can find out where their children can access free meals for kids throughout the summer.
The organization also does outreach through social media and by offering informational toolkits so other organizations, businesses and libraries can help spread the information.
“We are always open to new and creative ideas as well. Sometimes cities and towns will approach us,” Stadnicki said. “They know their communities best.”
For program updates, follow End Hunger Connecticut! @CTSummerMeals on Twitter and @EndHungerCT on Instagram. To submit questions, email email@example.com.