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Millions of low-income students rely on free or low-cost school meals. But when summer vacation starts, the school meals end. This means youth who had access to nutritious meals during the school year may be undernourished or hungry over the summer.
The good news is there are thousands of sites serving free summer meals to low-income youth.
And a new free mobile app called Range helps libraries, nonprofits, faith-based organizations, and others working with youth to locate those free meal sites this summer.
The statistics on hunger in America are startling:
During the school year, federal programs like the National School Lunch Program help close this nutrition gap by providing free or reduced-cost meals to low-income students.
Come summertime, however, school lunches are no longer available. That's when the federal Summer Food Service Program steps in, offering nutritious, free summertime meals to low-income school-age youth.
There are tens of thousands of libraries, community centers, nonprofits, and other organizations nationwide that offer free summer meals for school-age youth through this program.
Unfortunately, only one in six youth who are eligible for the National School Lunch Program take advantage of the Summer Food Service Program.
Organizations like Share Our Strength say this is partly due to lack of awareness — community members in need simply don't know about the Summer Food Service Program or don't know where nearby free meal sites are.
This means many children and teens who regularly had access to nutritious meals during the school year may be hungry or undernourished over the summer, even when there are free meals available in their communities.
The Range mobile app helps address that awareness problem.
Range helps trusted adults in a community — such as librarians, church-group leaders, youth-focused nonprofit staff, or community volunteers — direct school-age youth to sites that offer free meals.
The app was created by Caravan Studios, a division of TechSoup Global, with financial support from Microsoft Citizenship.
Marnie Webb, with Caravan Studios, refers to these trusted adults as "first referrers" because they are the ones interacting directly with youth in a community and would be well positioned to provide referrals to nearby free meals.
Range allows librarians, nonprofit staff, and other "first referrers" to do the following:
This post originally appeared on TechSoup for Libraries.
Images: USDA, USDA, marietta
Range screenshots courtesy of Caravan Studios
by Ariel Gilbert-Knight, Director, Content, TechSoup