No Kid Hungry Tennessee grants over $300K to combat summer hunger in rural communities

Published 9:48 am Thursday, June 29, 2023

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School is out for the summer, and this year school districts and nonprofits in rural Tennessee communities are allowed to serve free meals outside of traditional summer meal sites, thanks to federal policy changes that allow for new non-congregate options. To support the rollout of these new models, No Kid Hungry recently announced over $300,000 in grants to help 17 organizations across the state reach even more kids with summer meals, helping ensure they remain nourished and healthy during the summer months.
Among those programs is the Carter County School Food Services and Second Harvest Food Bank of Northeast Tennessee.
Summer can be one of the hungriest times of year for millions of kids who receive free and reduced-price meals during the school year, a lifeline that ensures reliable access to nutrition. When schools close for the summer, however, these meals disappear and families struggle from the strain on already-tight budgets.
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 parents’ work schedules. In rural areas, where kids often live many miles from their closest meal site, these challenges have been particularly stark. Fortunately, earlier this year Congress approved significant improvements to the summer meals program, including new options that allow rural sites to offer the flexibilities that work for their community, like grab and go meals, meal delivery and pick-up of multiple meals at a time.
“There has long been a huge gap between the kids getting meals in the summertime and the kids who need them, creating undue burden on family budgets and making it much harder for students to return to school in the fall healthy and ready to learn,” said Marissa Spady, Senior Field Manager for No Kid Hungry Tennessee. “Thankfully, Congress enacted permanent flexibilities for rural communities nationwide, helping reach more kids with summer meals. We saw during the pandemic that when we trust providers to serve meals in the ways that work best for their community, children stay nourished – and we’re eager to support our partners in doing just that.”
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. Special thanks go to the Tennessee Department of Education and the Tennessee Department of Human Services for navigating and supporting the sponsoring agencies in rolling out the new summer rural non-congregate options. The following school districts and community organizations received grants: Athens City Schools Food Service; Athens-McMinn Young Men’s Christian Association; Boys & Girls Club of the Smoky Mountains; Carter County School Food Service; Clarksburg School; Cumberland County School Nutrition Program; Haywood County Schools TN; Morgan County Schools; Oneida Special School District; Rhea County School Nutrition; Roane County Schools; Second Harvest Food Bank of Northeast Tennessee; Smith County Board of Education; Sullivan County Dept. of Education; The University of the South; Van Buren County Schools; and YMCA of Memphis & the Mid-South.
No Kid Hungry is also helping families find summer meals near them through our 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.

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