RICHMOND, Va. — School is almost out for summer, but for some families in Virginia, that means one less reliable meal each day for their children.
Around lunchtime, you could hear the crunch of celery being chopped and smell whole chickens being roasted in Feedmore’s community kitchen.
Gloria White works there and on Wednesday she was putting together little packets of vegetables.
“It kind of makes my day,” White said. “Even though you may not see the kids, but you know that they’re getting something that’s healthy.”
Those meals were packaged up and delivered to after-school programs in the Greater Richmond area. Soon, food will be sent to around 50 sites offering free summer meals. FeedMore is one of many places participating in the Virginia’s Summer Food Service Program.
“When you were a kid, you probably looked forward to when you were going to the pool, when you were meeting up with your friends,” Suzy Rohler, of FeedMore, said. “A lot of our students throughout Central Virginia, that’s not what they’re thinking about. They’re thinking about when their next meal is coming.”
According to Feeding America, roughly 250,000 children in Virginia don’t know where their next meal is going to come from. That’s one in eight children.
Those who are 18 or younger can go to any of the participating free summer meals sites to eat, no matter their family’s income. These sites include community centers, schools and camps.
Virginia Dept. of Education (VDOE) officials say more than 1,500 sites were part of the program last year. It’s too early to know the total for this summer; seven new school divisions, including Prince Edward County, Martinsville, Rockbridge County, King George County, Southampton County, Chesapeake and Colonial Heights, have signed up. Some of these areas had Seamless Summer Options before.
The U.S. Dept. of Agriculture (USDA) reimburses each meal served. It gives the money to the Virginia Dept. of Education to distribute the funds.
Rohler says programs like this help make sure children are healthy and full all year long.
“We want to remove that worry, so kids can be kids during the summer,” she said.
To find the nearest free summer meals location to where you live, text “Food” or “Comida” to 877-877. You can also look on the USDA’s website.
If you’re in the Richmond or Tri-cities area, there are around 50 locations working with FeedMore.