Baltimore children can receive a nutritional breakfast and lunch five days a week during the summer months, if they decide to participate in a food program starting June 17.
The program, created by Mayor Stephanie Rawlings-Blake and city officials and now in its seventh year, is funded by the U.S. Department of Agriculture and administered by the Maryland State Department of Education. Meals are made available to young people ages 18 and under.
“During the summer months, young people are at risk of falling behind nutritionally,” Rawlings-Blake said in a statement. “We are working to ensure that every child can grow and stay healthy.”
According to a recent study conducted by Feeding American, African-Americans disproportionately suffer from hunger. The study also found that one in three Black children live in a household where food is very limited. Within Baltimore, thousands of children rely on free meals provided to them by their school. The summer program, which runs until Aug. 16, will help close a hunger gap during the months in which school is not in session.
“As a product of Baltimore, I understand first-hand what it feels like to have parents that worked, however still remain financially strapped,” Deputy Commissioner of Housing for Community Services Reginald Scriber told the AFRO. “Some of the parents in the city have to decide whether to pay the rent, gas and electric bill, or buy food for their families.” With the food program, he said, “we made it easier.”
The program is a partnership between the city, Baltimore City Public Schools and non-profits seeking to help kids learn about healthy nutrition and being active while having fun in the summer months.
“The program provides free meals to our children who need it most when they are out of school,” said Rawlings-Blake.
As part of the mayor’s program, Scriber said “we are making progress, and we won’t be satisfied until every kid receives a nutritional meal.” Scriber said through comprehensive outreach, his team canvassed neighborhoods and communities to tap into areas of trouble.
“We saw a need to help the community,” Scriber said. More than 770,000 breakfasts and lunches will be served at 483 sites.
“With a limited budget, we advertise on billboards, and Mass Transit Administration (MTA) busses within the city,” Scriber said. “We have a goal of serving 1.2 million meals.”
Parents who are interested in signing their child up for the program, or who want more information on locations, can visit www.youthbmore.org or call 211.
“We are on our way to having a successful city in terms of young people,” said Scriber.