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Baltimore County kicks off its free summer meals program

According to a 2021 report from the United States Department of Agriculture (USDA), about 9 million children lose access to meals when school is out.

At the Randallstown library, Baltimore County Executive Johnny Olszewski joined other government officials and nonprofit leaders to raise awareness about the summer meals program, available statewide.

Children who are 18 and under will be able to pick-up free food at hundreds of sites throughout the county.

“As someone who was a former teacher, I saw firsthand students who struggled with issues of hunger,” said Olszewski. “That's why, we're so proud to partner with our school system, with USDA and with organizations like No Kid Hungry, to make sure children have that nutritious meal, fueling both their spirit, their mind and their body.” 

Olszewski also praised the county’s unconventional access points. Families can collect the meals at parks, recreation centers and various library branches. In other counties, a food truck will serve and deliver the meals to similar locations.

 Sonia Alcántara-Antoine, director of the Baltimore County Public Library. Photo by Wambui Kamau/WYPR.
Wambui Kamau/WYPR
Sonia Alcántara-Antoine, director of the Baltimore County Public Library.

Sonia Alcántara-Antoine, director of the Baltimore County Public Library, said families have rallied behind the model which was first introduced during the pandemic. She expects more than 3,000 kids (who participate in the summer reading program) to take advantage of the onsite meals.

“One of the things that public libraries do is make sure that everybody has access to the resources that they're going to need,” said Alcántara-Antoine. “Food is one of those resources right? We can't function or live without food. So it makes sense that libraries as community hubs are connecting children and families with those resources.”

According to Maryland’s Office of School & Community Nutrition Programs, more than 400,00 children qualify for free or reduced-price school meals. However, the summer meals program will provide food for all children, “no questions asked,” said Kara Panowitz, Senior Manager at No Kid Hungry.

“The really great thing about the Summer Meals Program is that no one's going to ask you for ID,” said Panowitz. “No one's going to ask you why you're there. It's really for any kid 18 and under to go to any site. It doesn't even have to be near your house. You can just go to any open site. You're gonna get a meal, you're gonna have maybe some other fun things to do at the library.”

Call 211 to find a site near you.

Wambui Kamau is a General Assignment Reporter for WYPR. @WkThee
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