PHILADELPHIA (CBS) — During the school year, all Philadelphia school students are guaranteed breakfast and lunch, even if they cannot afford it.
And during the summer, a lot of kids who come from fiscally poor households and depend on those meals may end up going hungry, since they do not have access to that food.
But the city is aiming to change that.
“The city of Philadelphia is looking to provide activities and encourage active healthy lifestyles and educational opportunities as part of the fun, safe, Philly summer and out of school time initiatives,” said Mayor Jim Kenney.
On Thursday afternoon, city officials gathered at the Aquinas Center in South Philadelphia to kick off its annual Summer Meals program.
“The reality is, poverty and hunger don’t take a break in the summer and so these meals represent an opportunity to have nutritious access to food on a regular basis throughout the summer season,” said Bethany Welch, Executive Director of the Aquinas Center.
The Summer Meals program is open for all kids 18 years old and under, and household income does not matter.
“Only 15% of the kids that get free or reduced price lunch during the school year take advantage of the free summer meals in their community, so we really want folks to understand the importance of free summer meals,” said Laura Wall, Executive Director of the Coalition Against Hunger.
There are more than 1000 free food centers throughout the city, and officials say kids who take part in them are going to get more than a free meal.
“We really just focus on health and wellness, and so the meals become a focal point for that throughout the summer,” Welch said.
“There’s milk with the meals, there’s a fruit with the meals, and a healthy balanced sandwich or salad. The meal is going to be different all the time, which is going to be great, changes it up. But you know they may get humus which they might not try, they may get little baby carrots which are great,” said Wall.
When it comes to a favorite meal from the program, the kids just can’t agree on one:
“I like the chocolate chip cookies and mangoes.”
There are no income requirements, ID, or registration for the free meals which are located at recreation centers, churches, schools, public housing complexes, and community organizations all around Philadelphia.