Summer should be a stress free time where kids get to relax. However, for nearly 1 in 5 kids across the Commonwealth summer is often the hungriest time of the year. The loss of free school meals and rising grocery costs means that families spend more on groceries in the summer, stretching already tight budgets and leaving kids at risk of missing meals. 

To help fill this summer meal gap, there are several programs available to Kentucky families this summer. Schools and nonprofits across Kentucky will be serving healthy, free meals for kids all summer long through the summer meals programs, while the Department for Community Based Services also offers several programs to help families pay for groceries.

While Kentucky Youth Advocates is not the state or facilitating these supports, we understand the importance of sharing these resources for families to access. 

The summer meals program is designed to provide kids and teens ages 18 and under with healthy, free meals during the summer months when school is out of session:

  • What are the requirements for my child or teen to receive a meal? Do I have to fill out an application form? 
    • There is no application or registration required to receive a meal. You do not have to provide proof of income, residency, or citizenship. Just show up!
  • Do meals have to be eaten on-site? 
    • Yes, due to federal regulations, all meals must be consumed on-site. Children can take one fruit, vegetable, or grain item from their meal off-site to eat later.
  • Is there a cost? 
    • No. All summer meals offered through the USDA’s programs are free to all kids and teens ages 18 and under.
  • Can parents or guardians pick up meals on behalf of their kids? 
    • No. Due to changes at the federal level. Parents and guardians can no longer pick-up meals on behalf of their kids and meals must be consumed on-site. However, many meal sites include fun activities for kids and the whole family.
  • How do I find a summer meals site in my community?  
    • Text FOOD or COMIDA to 304-304 to find free meals near you.
  • What kind of food is served at these sites? 
    • The meals served are healthy and meet USDA guidelines. A typical lunch, for example, could include a turkey sandwich on wheat bread, milk, an apple, and a salad. 
  • Who funds free summer meals? 
  • There is no site in my area. What can I do to be sure that one is available for the children in my area next summer? 
  • What else can I do to help? 
    • You can share information about free summer meals with your friends, neighbors, and family members. Share the texting hotline: Text FOOD or COMIDA to 304-304 to find free summer meals in our community.

In addition to summer meals, the Department of Community Based Services (DCBS) has several programs to help families pay for groceries:

  • Pandemic EBT (P-EBT): Pandemic EBT (P-EBT) provides grocery benefits for kids enrolled in the Free and Reduced Meal Program who missed school meals due to COVID related closures. P-EBT for the 2021-2022 school year started going out the week of May 25th, and additional payments will be going out throughout the summer. To learn more about P-EBT, visit our recent blog post.
  • Supplemental Nutrition Assistance Program (SNAP): Families who qualify for P-EBT may also qualify to receive benefits year round through the Supplemental Nutrition Assistance Program (SNAP). SNAP helps families pay for food year round by providing monthly grocery benefits on an EBT card, similar to a P-EBT card. To learn more about SNAP and apply, visit this KYNECT page.

Summer should be a stress free time where kids get to relax, not a time for kids to worry about where their next meal will come from. Summer meals, Pandemic EBT, and SNAP can help make that a reality.