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As school year ends, 750 sites in Missouri providing meals for children

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(The Center Square) – As free and reduced-price meals for students stop as the school year ends, more than 750 sites throughout Missouri will be providing meals through the Missouri Department of Health and Senior Services’ Summer Food Service Program.

The program is administered by the states and funded by the U.S. Department of Agriculture.

The state’s program is designed to provide breakfast, lunch, suppers and/or snacks to children living in eligible areas during the summer months and during times of public emergencies when children don’t have access to government-funded or reduced-price meals during the school year.

The meals are served by community organizations at schools, churches, parks, swimming pools, YMCA facilities, Boys and Girls Clubs and other community locations where children will gather this summer. The state reimburses the community agencies meeting standards for providing a required range of meals.

The program is for children ages 18 and under. Children don’t have to register for the program and meals are provided to all children appearing at the meal service location.

“By increasing the nutrient intake of program participants, (the program) reduces their risk for health problems and enhances their learning capacities,” according to the department’s website. “The program also improves the quality of the summer programs offered in areas of economic need.”

Individuals ages 18 to 21 who are determined mentally or physically disabled by a state or local education agency or who participate in an established school program for the mentally or physically disabled are eligible for the summer meals.

The state is providing an online interactive map to assist families in finding where their children can receive the meals. The map includes locations designated as non-congregate sites where families can pick up multi-day amounts of meals. It also designates sites where children must eat the meal.

Families without internet access can find locations by texting “Summer Meals” to (314) 342-7744.

Department information shows most of the locations for the meals are in the state’s largest metropolitan areas. Jackson County and Kansas City will have 109 food sites, the City of St. Louis and St. Louis County will have 77 and Greene County in southwest Missouri will have 43.

Self-preparation and rural sites will be reimbursed $2.97 for breakfast, $5.21 for lunch or supper and $1.23 for a supplement from the state. Reimbursement rates for urban sites are a few cents less than rural sites.

Last week, President Joe Biden’s administration announced a Summer Electronic Benefits Transfer program as part of the USDA’s Summer Nutrition Program for Kids. SUN Bucks will provide each eligible school-aged child with $120 in grocery benefits. It estimated approximately 21 million children will participate in the new program this summer.

“Nearly 30 million children participate in USDA’s school breakfast and lunch programs on an average school day, but when school is out, kids lose access to those vital meals,” Agriculture Secretary Tom Vilsack said in a statement. “USDA’s SUN programs offer more options for families to conveniently access the essential nutrition children need to thrive, learn and grow during summer and beyond.”

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