Tuesday, July 23, 2024

Polson School District receives grant to provide summer meals for kids

| June 13, 2024 12:00 AM

Polson School District #23 is among the eight organizations that will receive a portion of $75,000 in grant money from No Kid Hungry to help ensure Montana kids get the food they need to grow and thrive this summer.

For kids who receive school meals, the summer months can be the hungriest time of year. This year promises to be different, thanks to newly expanded guidelines that will give school districts and community organizations the flexibility to offer non-congregate meal service in many more rural communities.

To support the rollout of this effort, No Kid Hungry Montana recently announced $75,000 in grants to help eight organizations across the state reach even more kids with summer meals.

For many children, free and reduced-price school meals can be a lifeline that ensures reliable access to nutrition during the school year.

When schools close for the summer, however, these meals disappear and families struggle from the strain on already-tight budgets. This can be particularly true for rural families.

In a recent No Kid Hungry survey, parents reported on the unique hardships they faced during the summer when school is out. More than half of rural families say they don’t have enough money for food during the summer. Over 80% spend an average of $168 more each month on groceries when their children are out of school for the summer.

Summer meal programs were designed to provide healthy meals during summer vacation, but have historically only reached a fraction of the kids who need them due to barriers like transportation, fuel costs, extreme weather and parent’s work schedules. In rural areas, where kids often live many miles from their closest meal site, these challenges have been particularly stark.

“There’s long been a huge gap between the number of kids getting meals in the summertime and the kids who really need them – particularly in rural communities. New flexibilities for summer meals in rural communities means that no longer has to be the case,” said Brianna Guerrero, No Kid Hungry Montana manager.

“We’re excited to support these schools and community groups in offering summer meals in ways that work for their community – like allowing families to pick up multiple meals at a time or even offering home delivery.”

No Kid Hungry’s grant funding supports the adaptations needed to reach as many kids as possible with summer meals, including meal delivery, refrigeration and transportation costs.

No Kid Hungry is also helping families find summer meals near them through its Free Meals Finder map and texting hotline. Parents and caregivers can text the word “FOOD” (or “COMIDA”) to 304-304 to find sites in their neighborhood.