Popular Free Summer Meal Program Returns on Monday

DES MOINES, Iowa  --  Summer for kids should be filled with a few essentials: some laughs, a few splashes, and a whole lot of sun. One thing it should never have is the sound growling stomachs.  

“It’s a crucial issue. We know that about 35% of our central Iowans are not financially self-sufficient, so it’s really important that kids during the summer have those meals, hot meals, cold meals, every day during the week,” said Elisabeth Buck, Executive Director of United Way.

Even though it’s summer, tracking down a meal is no vacation. Many students in Des Moines rely on school to get their only meal of the day. 

"Taking care of our kids outside of the classroom and outside of the school year becomes a growing issue and a priority for us," said Phil Roeder of Des Moines Public Schools.

The fact is that only one in seven children will find the food they need this summer. That’s a number that’s just too high for United Way and Des Moines Schools, so they got together and offered a free summer meals program for kids and teens. 

"There are 50 sites in Polk, Dallas, and Warren Counties alone that are serving meals to youths under the age of 18,” said Buck.

Last year they fed more than 150,000 kids. 

If you’re interested, the easiest way to locate a summer meal program is to just pick up your phone. All you have to do is text “Food” to 877-877. After providing your zip code, you will receive a complete list of locations closest to your home with that free food program. You’ll even be provided with hours and locations. 

The program's main goal is to feed the kids, but in doing so organizers hope to fill a few minds, as well. 

“Not only are the youth fed, but there's also socialization going on, there’s crafts, there's reading projects going on, so it’s a really great way for families to know that their children are being fed and having social interactions, too,” said Buck. 

Find a list of locations here.