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June 19, 2022

Philly kids and teens can get free meals at these food sites this summer

The city's free food program opens on June 21, providing eat-in meals for anyone under 18 years old, with no student ID required

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Free Meal Sites Benjamin Brunner/Unsplash

Philadelphia is set to open hundreds of free meal sites for children and teens this summer, with no student ID required. Though five sites are open now, more will be announced on Monday, June 20 on the city's website.

Philadelphia kids and teens will soon have access to free meals through the summer, as the city's Office of Children and Families is set to open hundreds of youth meal sites this summer, beginning on June 21. 

As the school year ends, thousands of students no longer have access to free breakfast and lunch provided by the School District of Philadelphia. Though the School District previously provided free meals to students based on household income eligibility, officials expanded the program and eliminated the income requirement in 2014. 

Still, providing free meals to students during the academic year does not entirely fill the gaps in access to affordable, nutritious food for many students. Though five meal sites have already been announced, the remaining sites will be announced on Monday, June 20. 

Free meals will be available to eat on-site in accordance with USDA regulations. All people under 18 will be eligible for free meals, with no student ID required. Most sites have varying dates and times, so families are encouraged to call ahead or visit the site for more information. 

"When school is not in session, thousands of Philadelphia students need access to nutritious meals," said Vanessa Garrett Harley, deputy mayor of Philadelphia's Office of Children and Families. "The summer meals program is a partnership of the city and many community-based partners who come together to serve Philadelphia's children and youth."

Families can also find up-to-date information about free meal sites by contacting 311, the city's non-emergency services number. More sites will be added to the city's database as they prepare to open throughout the summer.

For those older than 18, the city already has dozens of meal sites for people of all ages. There are 23 general meal sites, with no ID required for entry. Everyone is welcomed to access free meals. Each site is open during different dates and times, so be sure to check out the database and call ahead to ensure that there is food available in your community. 

For those 60 and older, the Philadelphia Corporation for Aging also has a host of meal sites to provide free, nutritious food to aging residents. Currently, there are 17 sites for those aged 60 and older, and five additional sites funded by Philly Parks and Recreation for those aged 55 and older. 

"Hunger never takes a break, even when school is out," said Kathryn Ott Lovell, commissioner of Parks and Recreation. "That's why Parks and Recreation is committed to providing hundreds of summer meal sites for children through our PlayStreets, recreation centers and summer camps. Providing free summer meals is a key part of our summer programming for children and youth." 

Philadelphians of all ages are currently experiencing food insecurity, meaning that many people do not have consistent food access, resulting in lower food intake. Though many families are not consistently food insecure, many people must make tradeoffs with other basic necessities — like housing or medical care — in order to afford food.

In 2019, there were 83,460 children experiencing food insecurity in Philadelphia, according to Feeding America. The food insecurity rate among children in the city was 24.2% in 2019, the last year it was measured. That rate is higher than the national food insecurity rate, which is 14.6%. 

As food costs continue to grow amid rising inflation, many families who typically do not take part in the city's free meals programs may need additional help as their children are home for the summer. 

For those seeking additional help in accessing affordable food, there are dozens of food pantries and community fridges throughout the city, many of which do not have income requirements. 

Families can also call the Summer Meals Hotline at (215) 770-4659. The hotline, which is operated by the Coalition Against Hunger, provides additional resources for finding free meals throughout Philadelphia, Montgomery, Bucks and Delaware counties. You can also text "FOOD" or "COMIDA" to 304-304 to find the three closest meal sites to your home.