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Here's where kids can get free meals in South Florida this summer

Kids can still eat at hundreds of schools and libraries across South Florida this summer.
Kids can still eat at hundreds of schools and libraries across South Florida this summer.

Inflation, supply chain issues and federal regulations are making it harder for school districts to serve free meals to students this summer. But despite the challenges, kids can still eat at hundreds of schools and libraries across South Florida.

A searchable statewide map of summer meal sites is available here. To find a nearby location, call 211 or text FOOD or COMIDA to 304304.

The School District of Palm Beach County’s summer meal program is as big as it’s ever been, according to Food Services Director Allison Monbleau.

“As we rolled into the pandemic, we all saw that there were food shortages and challenges with being out of work. That really did increase a lot," Monbleau said. "So I feel very fortunate that we’re able to be here not only during the regular school year but also throughout the summertime to provide the much-needed nutrition that these children need.”

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SDPBC is serving free meals this summer at 172 different school sites and libraries. Anyone 18 and under can get something to eat, no ID required. Even before the pandemic, the district was serving some 795,000 meals over the summer. Monbleau says she expects to outpace that number this summer.

That’s despite a string of challenges that are making it even harder for public schools to make sure kids don’t go hungry when the regular school year ends. Districts are still struggling to keep their cafeterias staffed, inflation is driving up prices for fresh produce and other staples, and supply chain issues are making some basic items like utensils and plates hard to find.

Plus, federal rules that Congress paused at the start of the pandemic are slated to go back into effect, after lawmakers failed to extend the waivers. That means a critical loss of funding and flexibility that made it easier for schools to feed more kids over the past two years.

When the waivers expire on June 30, districts can no longer offer a grab-and-go option for parents to pick up food. Instead, kids have to be the ones to receive the meals and they have to eat them on-site in a congregate setting. Strict rules on what kinds of food districts are required to serve will also go back into effect.

READ MORE: School meal waivers expire in 9 days. After axing them, Congress may try to save them

Effie Jackson is the Director of Food Services for the Monroe County School District. More than two years into the pandemic, she says many families still need significant help feeding their kids.

“Inflation is so high. When you go to the grocery store, what used to be considered the poor man’s dinner is no longer that. It’s really hard to feed your family at home,” Jackson said. “Families are having a hard time feeding their kids from the grocery store. So the least we can do is make sure that they have meals when they come to school free of charge.”

Despite the pressure on school systems, kids will be able to eat for free at hundreds of schools across the region this summer. According to district staff, times and locations of meal sites are subject to change. Families are encouraged to call their school or library ahead of time to confirm the details.

Broward County

  • Information about meal sites at Broward County Library branches is available here

Miami-Dade County

Monroe County

Palm Beach County

  • Information about meal sites at Palm Beach County schools is available here
  • Information about meals sites at Palm Beach County library branches is available here
  • A searchable county-wide map of meal sites is available here

Kate Payne is WLRN's education reporter