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Summer meal programs kick-off as students near end of school year

Posted at 6:53 AM, Jun 01, 2021
and last updated 2021-06-01 06:53:27-04

CLEVELAND — Food insecurity in Cuyahoga County is growing from just under 16% in 2018 to nearly 21% in 2020.

“Almost one in four children are considered to be food insecure. So, it's quite a number of kids,” said Jessica Morgan, Chief Programs Officer, Greater Cleveland Food Bank.

Thanks to USDA funding expanding through September, the Greater Cleveland Food Bank is offering free summer breakfasts and lunches at more than 90 sites across six counties daily. Those sites will include Cleveland metropolitan schools.

“We know that students, if they don't eat with us, may not eat at all during the summer,” Chris Burkhardt, Executive Director of School Nutrition CMSD explained. “Parents or guardians are able to pick meals up on behalf of their children, which is not something that's typically seen in the program.”

The district, food bank and Children's Hunger Alliance set to serve 18 schools. We’re told nine of those schools will be getting 140,000 healthy meal kits this month. It's part of former First Lady Michelle Obama’s "Pass the Love" campaign and the "Partnership for a Healthier America."

“They may have access to food, but they may not have access to nutrition. So that's what's vitally important about our summer programming,” said Burkhardt.

The food bank also partnering with Cleveland public libraries. Lorain County is doing the same thing. Its public library system is kicking off its own summer food service program by providing free meals five days a week at three of its branches through August 20th.

“We have like grab and go crafts right now that people can come and pick up while they're picking up their meals or like colored coloring pages, crossword puzzles, all that kind of stuff,” said Annalisse Strippoli, Assistant Branch Manager for the Lorain Public Library.

Other programs set to start include Lake County Lunches on June 7 and Akron on June 14.

RELATED: Cleveland Public Library to provide free meals for families this summer