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City, Community Groups Fill School Meals Gap During Summer

Anne Ayella, assistant director of Nutritional Development Services at the Archdiocese of Philadelphia, holds up chicken nuggets, included in one free meal. (Credit: Cherri Gregg)

Anne Ayella, assistant director of Nutritional Development Services at the Archdiocese of Philadelphia, holds up chicken nuggets, included in one free meal. (Credit: Cherri Gregg)

Gregg_Cherrie--NEW Cherri Gregg
Cherri Gregg is the community affairs reporter for KYW Newsr...
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By Cherri Gregg

PHILADELPHIA (CBS) – The Greater Philadelphia Coalition Against Hunger has teamed up with the City of Philadelphia to provide free meals for thousands of kids this summer.

“During the summer, kids that normally rely on free school meals don’t have that support,” says Julie Zaebst, interim executive director of the Greater Philadelphia Coalition Against Hunger.

The group is working with the Philadelphia Housing Authority, Parks and Recreation, the USDA and the Archdiocese of Philadelphia to provide free summer meals for the more than 100,000 low income children who get free or reduced-price meals during the school year. But Zaebst says only a fraction of eligible kids will actually take part in the benefit.

“Four out of five low income kids are not getting free summer meals,” she says. “That means we still have a lot of work to do.  We want to encourage parents to call the sites are out there, the meals are out there.”

The program is available for any child or teen in Philadelphia up to age 18.  The service, which provides free breakfast, lunch, supper and snacks, is available at more than 1,000 sites across the city.

“It is, I think, one of the best meals available,” says Anne Ayella, assistant director of Nutritional Development Services at the Archdiocese of Philadelphia.  She says each meal includes a vegetable and a fruit and lots of nutrients.

“It includes one-third of their recommended daily allowance for all of their calories and their growth nutrients too,” she says.

The US Department of Agriculture is footing some of the bill, so they’re encouraging non-profits and churches to step up and open their doors as a food site.

“We are focused on trying to serve five million more meals this year,” says Michael Walton, program specialist of food services with USDA.  “Organizations that run this program get reimbursement of up to $4 per day, per child if they serve two meals.  So if your cost is $5, you get $4.”

To find a free food site near you, call 855-252-MEAL or text “MEALPA” to 877877.

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