Alabama families: Here’s where you can find free meals for your children this summer

Free meals are available to children 18 years old and younger in many places in Alabama this summer through the USDA’s Summer Food Service Program.

That’s the good news. The bad news is that availability is much more limited than last year.

Last year, there were nearly 1,000 locations serving free meals. This year, so far, there are about 380 locations statewide where families can pick up meals and just under 100 of those will start serving meals beginning June 1. Sixty of Alabama’s 146 school districts will serve free meals this summer.

The map below shows where the locations are, or you can go to the Break for a Plate website maintained by the state department of education, at this link.

The lingering effects of COVID combined with high gas prices, workforce shortages and supply chain issues means fewer communities will have access to the free meals, according to the Feeding Alabama CEO Laura Lester.

Feeding Alabama, not affiliated with Alabama schools, is sponsoring 41 locations in 10 counties this year, she said. Last year, they sponsored 67 locations in 15 counties.

“Our greatest fear, I think, is how many kids are not going to have enough to eat this summer,” Lester said. “During COVID, we were able to reach so many more kids than we ever had before, particularly in rural areas.”

The barriers to food and distribution routes have hit rural communities the hardest, she said. Those parts of the state are the toughest to reach. But even if food and supplies can get to rural areas, families might not be able to afford the gas to drive to a location even 10 miles from their home, she said.

The current list shows vast areas of Alabama’s rural communities with no free meal programs. Families can text “Summer Meals” to 914-342-7744 or call 1-866-348-6479 to find a site near you.

Lester is hoping Congress will extend the waivers that have given flexibility to schools over the past two years, but no action has been taken.

Type your address or “Alabama” in the search box below to see where meals are being served.

Additional information about free meal locations can be found at the links below:

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