Jun 7, 2021 - News

Des Moines Public Schools' free summer meal program begins

A paper plate with a chicken cutlet, bread, apple sauce and chocolate milk on it.

Photo by Dixie D. Vereen/For The Washington Post via Getty Images

Des Moines Public Schools' free summer meals program, Grab-n-Go Meals, starts Monday for anyone under age 18, regardless of family income levels.

Why it matters: Thousands of children in central Iowa rely on free school programs for most of their weekday meals.

  • Summer break can leave kids without a stable food source, which can stunt their development and have long-term effects on their health.

The state of play: Nearly 24,000 DMPS students — almost 80% — are eligible for free and reduced-price lunches.

  • Since the pandemic, some programs have expanded or relaxed guidelines to make sure children have access to nutritious meals during school closures and other virus-related restrictions.

The big picture: An estimated 13 million children in the U.S. face summer food insecurity, according to Feeding America.

What they're saying: Fewer than 8% of the 40K students who need summer meal assistance in central Iowa get it, according to Central Iowa Shelter & Services, which helps run the Meet-Ups program.

  • Lack of knowledge is part of why they're underused, Food Bank of Iowa president Michelle Book told Axios.

Here's is a rundown of some free food programs in the city this summer:

  • Grab-n-Go Meals are available at nine sites between 11:30am-12:30pm Mon-Fri, today through Aug. 13. Find more details here.
  • United Way's Summer Meal Meet-Ups are open to kids Mon-Fri at more than a dozen sites. Call 211 or text “food” or “comida” to 877-877.
  • Drive-thru pantries, organized by the Food Bank of Iowa, are also helping out students and their families across DSM. No ID is required.

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