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Free Summer Meal Programs Kick Off Around San Diego County

About 70 percent of San Diego County students who qualify for free meals at school aren't showing up to claim meals offered to them at summer programs run by school districts and the U.S. Department of Agriculture.
About 70 percent of San Diego County students who qualify for free meals at school aren't showing up to claim meals offered to them at summer programs run by school districts and the U.S. Department of Agriculture.
Free Summer Meal Programs Kick Off Around San Diego County
Free Summer Meal Programs Kick Off Around San Diego County GUESTS: Robin McNulty, school meals program director, San Diego Hunger Coalition Jamie Phillips, director of child nutrition services, Vista Unified School District

School is out so that means number classes homework or if we will -- free lunches. Most school districts keep providing free lunches. Too many of them will go hungry. It is much more common than we like to imagine in San Diego. The number of students all of for free lunches has increased by 17% in the last few years. We have Robin and Jamie. Thank you for being with us. Thank you. Robin. How do we know children Mike hungry they don't have this month program. Research has shown that one in five kids don't receive enough to eat. This is research the the San Diego hunger coalition as well as many other partners at the state. That is a lot of children. How many families are taken advantage. We know that there are only about 27%. That is 73% of children that are eligible are not taking part. We will talk a little bit more. Today we are doing local strawberries. We have celery and carrot along with juice and milk. Another thing that is very key is to relay the message to everybody that whether you are free reduced or paid you can come in for free with us. We do not have to worry about that if you are 18 or under. He mentioned it is at the Boys and Girls Club not at the school. We want to reach out to as many people as possible. We return to the school sites and also the park. We are always looking to expand and find ways to help them out. You have an estimate of how many students qualify for free or reduced school lunches? Currently for free and reduced we have approximately 40,000 students that qualify. How many of them historically show up for the summer lunch program. Last year we had approximately 1050 students per day. This year for our first week we have about 1400 day. We are looking at increased reactions. We added a couple sites to try to bring in more to -- more participation. Tell us a little bit more about why you think so many families are not taking advantage of this program. It certainly is. It families now about where they can go to get these meals. Unfortunately our school districts are a trusted source of information for our families and they really resonate with official information coming from their schools. They tell us time and time again that they are unaware of where the meals are and they also have transportation issues. They like to take their children to places for meals. That is why it is great to know that Vista is really stepping up and having this great program at the Boys and Girls Club's and opening up more sites when possible. They are looking for new locations for these programs? School districts are wonderful partners. Over the years they have partnered with their local parks and rec's. Also partnering with some other community organizations such as Boys and Girls Club seven YMCAs and also opening their schools up. Children that will not be eligible can come in and have these free meals in the summertime. Schools are seem like a safe place for kids. There has been some policies at the school district saying that students that come on campus can fill they are safe from somebody come in and saying you are not here legally you don't have the right papers immediately reported Defendant hold true? We have had the opportunity to do some focus groups. The torso they are constantly concerned. That is where they feel safe and I can again get this information at a school site or within a city that they know it is available for everyone. They feel safer. Do you have a sense that deportation fears are a big issue for some your students. We promoted for everybody 18 and under we just want to be sure that everybody can come out and enjoy the meal. They don't have to worry about any kind of applications and paperwork. This is only one of the programs available for families. There is also account/for example known as food stamps. Talk about why this program is important for really getting kids the food they need. It is modeled after what they are used to having in the school lunches. There are some different -- different foods available. They had fresh local produce which is something that they love to know is available for them. These sites follow the regulations for everything that they do to keep children safe as they would within their school district. I believe this is -- children who are 18 years and younger can go to the sites and receive a free meal. It is funded by the US Department of Agriculture. There is always some concern to have a large and antihunger organizations along with the school nutrition Association are monitoring everything that is coming out of DC that has to do with a child reauthorization and the farm bill. Thank you so much that is the schools meals programs director. And Jamie Phillips who is director of child nutrition at Vista unified school district thank you for being with us. We have a link on our story of the on our website. Be sure to watch KPBS evening edition at 5:00 and 6:30 PM tonight and join us again tomorrow for KPBS midday edition at noon. If you ever want to hear a segment you may have missed check out our podcast online. I am Allison St. John thank you so much for listening.

School is out for summer and that means some kids may not be getting enough to eat.

According to the San Diego Hunger Coalition, more than 125,000 lower income children in the region depend on free or reduced-priced lunches. Yet, just a fraction of them participate in summer meal programs.

Several summer meal program “kick-off” events will be held this week to get the word out about where kids can get a free meal.


The Hunger Coalition has been working to expand programs to libraries and recreation centers as a way to increase access. Still, some worry deportation fears may keep immigrant families away.

RELATED: What’s On The Menu For School Lunch Reform Under Trump

Robin McNulty, school meals program director for the San Diego Hunger Coalition and Jamie Phillips, director of child nutrition services for Vista Unified School District discussed the need for summer meal programs around San Diego County, Tuesday on Midday Edition.

Summer Meal Kick Off Events


11:30 a.m.-12:30 p.m.

Boys and Girls Club of Vista


10:00 a.m.- 2:30 p.m.

Skyline Hills Park, San Diego

The summer meal programs are run by school districts and the U.S. Department of Agriculture.

For information on locations you can text the word “food” or “comida,” in Spanish, to 877-877 or call 2-1-1 San Diego. You can also visit to find a meal site location in your neighborhood.