New hotline helps Philly families in need find free meals for kids

Hungry families in Philadelphia can call a new hotline to find out where to get free meals for their kids over the summer.

During the regular school year, many low-income students count on eating free or reduced-price meals at school.

Carey Morgan, the executive director of the Greater Philadelphia Coalition Against Hunger, said that when school is out, kids face higher risks of hunger and malnutrition.

This summer presents an additional challenge, she said, because the school district has had to cut back.

“The school district has put on a program where thousands of kids get food in the summer through the summer food service program in the past,” Morgan said. “But because of those budget cuts, they’re no longer to provide such abundant services and they’ve pulled back.

“We wanted to make sure that kids know where to get food, so we started these hotline services and texting services so they can find their nearest site,” she said.

There are nearly 1,000 sites in Philadelphia that serve free breakfast, lunch or snacks to children and teens.

“We’re one of the biggest sponsors,” said Anne Ayella of the Archdiocese of Philadelphia’s Nutritional Development Services.

“We’re able to work with kids not only in Philadelphia but in the whole five-county area providing them with lunch. In some cases, they also have a snack or breakfast,” she said. “We usually peak in mid-July and, sometimes during those weeks, there are over 20,000 meals going out to kids in our close to 500 sites.”

Ayella said some families, struggling with unemployment or underemployment, are embarrassed toask for the free food for the first time.

Last year, more than 119,000 children in Pennsylvania received summer meals.

Families looking for more information can call the hotline at 1-855-252-MEAL.

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