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Boston Summer Eats Program Provides Free Meals to Youth Across the City

Summer Eats logo

Mayor Martin J. Walsh has announced the launch of the 2019 Boston Summer Eats Program, emphasizing his pledge to expand food security by providing free and nutritious meals to youth ages 18 and under at more than 100 locations throughout the city.

Meals are available on a first come, first served basis at the following locations and times. No registration or identification is required.

To learn more about the Boston Summer Eats program and to find additional locations across the state, individuals can text “Food” or “Comida” to 877-877, call Project Bread’s FoodSource Hotline at 1-800-645-8333, or visit www.meals4kids.org.

Last summer, over 18,500 meals were served by Boston Summer Eats.

“No kid or teen in Boston should ever suffer from insufficient food access just because school is out for the summer,” said Mayor Walsh. “I am proud that, through Boston Summer Eats, we are making real progress in bridging the nutrition gap experienced by many youth in our City throughout the summer. By supplying healthy meals and fun, enjoyable activities at our readily accessible meal sites, we are reducing food insecurity one child at a time, making sure that Boston’s students are happy, healthy, and ready before they return to the classroom next school year.”

The Boston Summer Eats program is led by the Mayor’s Office of Food Access (OFA) in partnership with Project Bread, the Greater Boston YMCA, and Boston Public Schools Food & Nutrition Services. The program provides free, nutritious meals and engaging programming to youth age 18 and under at over 100 locations around the City of Boston, including selected BPS schools, Boston Public Library branches, Boston Housing Authority properties, Farmers Markets, community and faith-based organizations, Boston City Hall, and the Bruce Bolling Municipal Building (BPS Central Office).

“The Boston Summer Eats program is a great example of our all-hands-on-deck approach to meeting the needs of students in the Boston Public Schools,” said BPS Superintendent Brenda Cassellius, who officially began in her new role on Monday, July 1. “When students are well fed and ready to learn, they’re more likely to be happy and engaged with learning, whether it’s in the world around them during summer break or in the classroom. This also eases the burden on parents who want to make sure their kids are eating healthy meals during the summer.”

The program helps fill the gap in food access when school is not in session and students lose access to the daily school meals on which many rely. This year the Mayor’s Office of Food Access added 13 total Summer Eats meal sites, including a new mobile meal site which will provide meals in at least one neighborhood per day around the City. In addition to food insecurity, the program addresses and mitigates summer learning loss by providing educational and fun activities.

“Reducing barriers to summer food access has a big impact on the success of young people in our City,” said Catalina López-Ospina, Director of the Mayor’s Office of Food Access. “By providing free meals and fun, educational opportunities, we can boost food security and buck the summer learning loss that occurs when school is out of session.”

“The YMCA of Greater Boston will serve approximately 300,000 meals at more than 80 locations this summer,” said James Morton, President and CEO of the YMCA of Greater Boston.  “During the summer months, 80.3 percent of students who eat lunch at school during the school year do not participate in a summer food program, and we are pleased to join the Mayor’s Office of Food Access and others to end childhood hunger in Boston”

Children in Eastern Massachusetts have higher rates of food insecurity when compared to the overall population, according to data released by the Greater Boston Food Bank. In Eastern Massachusetts, one in nine children and one in eleven adults live with food insecurity. Food insecurity is defined by the U.S. Department of Agriculture (USDA) as lack of access to enough food for an active, healthy life. 

“Hunger doesn’t disappear in the summer. The same students who count on school food for more than half their daily nutrition are at risk for summer hunger and learning loss when school is on break and those meals are unavailable,” says Erin McAleer, President of Project Bread. “Summer Eats is an effective way to close that gap. We can help kids and teens stay healthy so they are both ready to learn when it is time to head back to school and also more likely to stay healthy in the future.”

Boston Summer Eats sites, supported and managed by the Mayor’s Office of Food Access, are funded by the Boston Children’s Hospital Collaboration for Community Health. This grant expands and enhances the Boston Summer Eats program across the community, making sure that difficult-to-reach populations experiencing food insecurity are aware of the program and have increased access to healthy food.

“For more than 25 years, Boston Children’s has dedicated resources and used its expertise to improve child health outcomes beyond the walls of our hospital,” says Sandra L. Fenwick, Chief Executive Officer of Boston Children’s Hospital. “Through the Collaboration for Community Health, we’re able to further extend by helping more community partners to implement programs and strategies that are vital to a child’s overall health.”

Through the Collaboration for Community Health, the City has been able to fund 32 new nontraditional sites in Boston’s neighborhoods to provide meals to kids and teens ages 18 and under. These are existing locations in the neighborhoods for community building, and adding the summer meal aspect for youth is an added resource to help communities thrive this summer.