Food pantries are stocked in winter months, thanks to generous holiday donations.
But when summer comes, donations drop and pantry shelves become sparse. This leaves families in need with limited options. Sadly, 1 in 9 people in the U.S. are food insecure and more than 13 million kids wake up each day not knowing if they will have food on the table.
Once the school year ends, kids can no longer rely on school meal programs to help fill their bellies. And even though summer feeding programs exist to fill the gap, kids and families don’t always know about them—or they choose not to take part because they feel there’s a stigma around it.
“The United States Department of Agriculture (USDA) offers a summer feeding program, but we discovered that it was under-utilized when we looked at the numbers of what was available and who was actually using it,” says Luke Lynch, Central Iowa’s OpportUNITY Director.
OpportUNITY is the chapter’s plan to address poverty, with a specific focus on increasing access to food as a basic and essential need for children and families.
Kids 18 years and under and their parents can text FOOD to 877-877 to receive the locations and times of feeding events closest to them.
Still, United Way of Central Iowa thought there was an opportunity to reach more kids. “How can we get kids to come and want to be there?” Lynch says. “How can we engage them and make these events more of a destination instead of a stigma?”
Enter: Summer Meal Meet-Ups
So, United Way of Central Iowa created a branding and marketing campaign to promote the USDA feeding events, calling them Summer Meal Meet-Ups.
They held kickoffs to drum up support and, with the help of the Kellogg Company Fund, created flyers and other promotional materials to share around disadvantaged communities, in schools before kids went on summer break, and at food shelters.
The response from the local community and businesses has been heartwarming, helping make these Meet-Ups about more than just food.
“Local organizations have come with a blender bike that allows kids to make their own smoothie by cycling,” Luke says. “We’ve also had Can Play, an organization that provides adaptive sports, come to sites to help kids experience different exercises.”
Summer Meal Meet-Ups vary in duration. Some run through July, others through August, depending on the venue hosting them. Central Iowa Shelter and Services hosts 14 sites, while local school districts also participate.
“We’re just super grateful that Kellogg Company Fund is helping us bring programming to Central Iowa,” Luke says. “We have a lot of people who are interested in the wellbeing of children.”
This program is just one of the ways we’re fulfilling Kellogg’s Better Days® Promise commitment to feed 375 million people in need. Learn more on our website.