As an educator, I love having summers off. Even though I spend some days planning for the fall and taking classes, it’s nice to have a little extra time with my family.
But summer doesn’t make me forget about “my kids” – the thousands of children I have taught over the years. One fear on my mind when the final bell rings is whether or not some of my students will go hungry during the summer months.
According to Hunger Free Heartland, a non-profit initiative to end childhood hunger in Nebraska and Iowa, 1 in 5 children and 1 in 7 adults in Nebraska are food insecure, meaning these adults and children may not know where their next meal is coming from.
Nebraska ranks 41st in the country for the amount of low-income children who participate in summer meal programs (in Nebraska, that number is 9.3 percent). Children are going hungry in our community, even though there are more than 200 sites in the area that serve free meals for children during the non-school months.
Local organizations, such as the Food Bank of the Heartland, Salvation Army, Midwest Dairy Council, Nebraska Department of Education and various churches and school districts make these programs possible.
For most programs, children (ages 1 to 18) just show up during meal hours (which vary depending on location) and get a balanced breakfast or lunch. No registration or enrollment is necessary. Many of these programs are federal programs designed to provide students nutritional meals during the summer months.
Below is a list of locations and organizations participating in summer meal programs:
• The Bellevue Public Library, in connection with the Salvation Army and Food Bank for the Heartland, will serve free lunch from 12:30 to 1 p.m. through Aug. 7 at the library on 1003 Lincoln Road.
• Council Bluffs Public Schools will serve breakfast and lunch at various schools through July 31. (All sites are closed on July 3.) As with many other districts and programs, adults may eat free with their children thanks to a grant from the Food Bank of the Heartland. Times and meals available vary based on the location. For more information, click here.
• Millard Public Schools will provide free breakfast from 8 to 9 a.m. and lunch from 11:30 a.m. to 1 p.m. at Holling Heights Elementary, 6565 S 136th St. Click here for more information.
• Omaha Public Schools: Various elementary, secondary schools as well as church sites provide breakfast and/or lunch from June 1-26. The program is free for children 1-18 years. Times vary depending on location. Additional dates in July and August are available as well. All sites are closed on July 3.
• Papillion La-Vista Public Schools will be serving lunch and breakfast for children ages 1 through 18 and their accompanying adults Tuesdays through Thursdays until July 23 at La Vista West Elementary, located at 7821 Terry Drive. Breakfast will run from 7:45 to 8:45 a.m. and lunch will run from 11 a.m. to 12:15 p.m. Click here for more information.
• Westside Public Schools’ Summer Eats program is also free to children 1-18. Adults accompanying a participating child will also receive free meals. Most locations are serving breakfast and lunch through until August 7. Hillside Elementary will serve meals until July 31.
To find a free summer meals site near you, visit Hunger Free Heartland. You can also get involved in helping end childhood hunger by donating food, time or money. Contact Hunger Free Heartland for more details.
Jen Schneider is a middle school teacher and mom to two children.