Philly Parks & Rec to offer students free meals during winter break

Philadelphia’s Department of Parks & Recreation will offer free “school’s out” meals to students in need while class is out of session.

Activity tables are spaced apart at a Philadelphia charter school

Kindergarten students at Russell Byers Charter School in Center City sit at their own tables during activities. (Kimberly Paynter/WHYY)

During the academic year, many Philadelphia students rely on their schools for free meals.

Since at least 40% of families qualify for free or reduced school lunch, the city falls under Pennsylvania’s community eligibility provision. The designation means all Philadelphia families, regardless of household income, are eligible for free school lunches.

This winter break, in an effort to ensure students can still access affordable and nutritious food, Philadelphia’s Department of Parks & Recreation will offer free “school’s out” meals to students in need.

A longstanding public health issue pre-COVID-19, food insecurity has only been exacerbated by the pandemic.

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According to Feeding America, more than 1.3 million Pennsylvanians face food insecurity, including more than 300,000 children.

Philadelphia Parks & Recreation Commissioner Kathryn Ott Lovell, speaking to the issue of child hunger, called winter recess a time for students to enjoy time with their families.

“No child should go hungry because schools are closed,” Lovell said in a statement, adding that rec centers in every part of the city will offer meals to Philadelphia students who need them.

The department’s announcement comes as U.S. food banks grapple with increased demand from families, who face rising food prices and nationwide supply chain issues.

The Parks & Rec meal program, funded by the U.S. Department of Agriculture, will serve students up to age 18 on a first-come, first-served basis between mid-afternoon and early evening.

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The rec centers and playgrounds will provide free meals on the following days:

  • Monday, Dec. 27
  • Tuesday, Dec. 28
  • Wednesday, Dec. 29
  • Thursday, Dec. 30
  • Monday, Jan. 3
  • Tuesday, Feb. 1

Families can find a full list of food distribution facilities online.

Following the winter months, Parks & Rec’s program will return for spring recess in early- to mid-April.

Additional resources

Below are additional resources related to fighting food insecurity in Philadelphia, from where to find feel meals for those in need to how you can get involved.


Step Up to the Plate


Community fridges

See Billy Penn’s comprehensive breakdown on where to find community fridges around Philadelphia, whether to pick up or drop off donations.

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