Students Offered Free Meals this Summer

School districts, public libraries, and nonprofits are serving up free meals and food to O.C. students this summer.

Students Offered Free Meals this Summer
A flyer from the Santa Ana Unified School District promotes its summer meals program.

Under California's Universal Meals Program, every student is able to get free meals at school. But what happens during the summer, when students are not on campus?

School districts, public libraries, and local nonprofits are offering food and meals to Orange County's students that are 18 and younger during June, July, and August.

The Garden Grove Unified School District is serving meals to students at 14 of its school sites through the National School Lunch Seamless Summer food service program. No enrollment is required.

"A typical lunch may include a submarine sandwich, pizza, popcorn chicken, mini cheeseburger sliders, yogurt, choice of fruits and vegetables from the salad bar, juice and milk," according to GGUSD. Last summer the district served more than 114,600 meals.

The Santa Ana Unified School District served 24,000 meals a day last summer to its students. The district's service offering breakfast and lunch to kids on weekdays is up and running again at 56 sites this year. (See flyer above for locations or at this link.)

Families in the Los Alamitos USD, Cypress School District, and Fountain Valley School District, can get fresh food through Summer Harvest, a nonprofit working to provide meals in "communities that have less than 50% of their students on the federal lunch assistance program."

"Our vision is to eliminate food insecurity for school-aged children in affluent communities where school districts do not qualify for government programs," reads the Summer Harvest website. Families that register are able to get groceries at designated pick-up events. They receive staples like cereal, rice, and pasta along with fresh fruits and vegetables, and family-friendly recipes.

Last weekend, dozens of families drove through a pick-up event at Clara King Elementary School in Cypress to get fresh produce and dry goods.

Second Harvest Food Bank in Orange County is offering free meals at various locations for any child 18 and younger.

“The unfortunate reality is that one in 8 children in Orange County is food insecure. Once the school year ends, the reliable source of nutrition provided by school campuses disappears, increasing their vulnerability,” said Second Harvest CEO Claudia Bonilla Keller in a news release. “With the continued record levels of inflation, this summer poses even greater challenges for families facing food insecurity.”

Families can find the nearest open Second Harvest site by calling 211, texting 898211, or clicking here.

Six Orange County Public Library branches will also be offering meals to children under 18 on a first come, first served basis. The meals will be served from noon until 1:00 p.m. at select branches in Costa Mesa, Garden Grove, San Juan Capistrano, Lake Forest, and Tustin.

The California Department of Education also has resources. That includes the CA Meals For Kids App that you can download onto your phone. It allows you to search by location for sites offering food and meals to students this summer. You can also search this list provided by the CDE.

And new this summer, the SUN Bucks program offers qualified California students an additional $120 to go toward the purchase of food during June, July, and August.

“Combating child hunger truly takes a village, and SUN Bucks will play a critical role in helping close the food and nutrition insecurity gaps that many of our Orange County families face,” said Dareen Khatib, the Orange County Department of Education's administrator of health, safety and prevention programs in an OCDE Newsroom story.

To find out more about the SUN Bucks program, click here.

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