Find out where your kids can get free meals this summer

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During the school year, many kids who don’t get enough to eat at home can get free or reduced-price lunches at school. But where do they turn during the summer months? Well, you can find dozens of locations across the Tampa Bay region free meals and snacks are handed out this summer by plugging your address into the website or by texting “FoodFL” to 877-877 or by dialing 2-1-1.

WMNF News interviewed Mary Jo McKay, section manager of the nutrition and wellness section of the Hillsborough County Department of Aging Services.

“The Summer Food Program is a federally-funded program that offers lunch and snacks to children ages 18 years and younger while school is not in session – particularly during the summer months.”

What’s the need like?

“We all know that children need healthy food all year long – not just during the school year. Because during the school year, a significant number of children who live in Hillsborough County receive free and reduced lunch. We know that – because they are receiving the free or reduced [cost] lunch – that eating healthy meals during the summer months is going to be probably out of [financial] reach for some of the families. So we’re here to bridge that gap; to insure that the school-aged children are still eating a nutritious lunch and the snack through the summer months. And I think it’s going to – and it does – help them to be prepared for the [upcoming] school year.”

How many children do you reach?

“We reach about 4,000 a year.”

And if people want to find out where they can go to get this meal, how can they find out?

“A couple ways. You can call a Summer Food Program representative at 813-272-5160 or you can text ‘FOODFL’ to number 877877.”

I imagine the 813 number is a Hillsborough [County] only number. But for the text and for a website, is that statewide?

“Yes. That is definitely statewide. We want to insure that you can find a location wherever you live – in the county, outside of the county – you can find a location, yes.”

Is there anything else that our listeners should know about this?

“Yeah, I want them to know that the summer food is very accessible and there is a location near just about every corner of the county. We are partnering with faith-based organizations; you have the YMCAs, you have the Boys and Girls Clubs, you have city and county parks.”