Free summer meal program serving thousands of kids kicks off in Sacramento City Unified

More than 35 Sacramento area schools and community centers are opening their cafeterias this summer to provide free breakfast and lunch for children in the region.

Sacramento City Unified School District on Monday kicked off this year’s program, in which students and Sacramento residents under age 18 can enjoy pancakes and sausage in the morning, and homestyle chicken strips for lunch.

The district has been serving the summer meals for more than 20 years

Sacramento City Unified serves an average of 3,000 breakfasts and 5,000 lunches each day through the Summer Food Service Program, a federally funded program that does not have an impact on the district’s budget. The school district says it is reimbursed for the food and labor expenses.

The district serves more than 45,000 meals daily throughout the school year, and about two-thirds of those students qualify for free or reduced priced lunch – which helps explain the need for the program, officials said.

Jacquez Cosby, a 17-year-old student taking summer school at Rosemont High School, said it’s his first time eating a meal in the program and at school.

“I just wouldn’t eat until I got home. I’d like, not eat at school, I’d eat in the morning and I’d eat when I got home. that was it. There was no in between,” Cosby said. “It did make it definitely harder to study because like when you’re thinking about food you’re not thinking about like what you’re supposed to be doing at school. It’s really much of a distraction.”

The school sites do not require paperwork, registration or identification to receive a meal. Children do not need to be enrolled in a program to receive a free meal.

“We know that there are low income students that need these meals throughout the summer, and we want to make sure we are doing what we can to provide them with these meals,” said district spokeswoman Catalina Martinez.

Many school districts in the area have summer meal programs, including Natomas, Twin Rivers and Elk Grove Unified. Sacramento City Unified has the largest number of sites among area districts.

To find a school site that provides free summer meals in the district, text the word FOOD or COMIDA to 877877 or call 211 for dates and mealtime information and locations. Sacramento City Unified’s website provides the menu and more information.

Follow more of our reporting on Sacramento City Unified in Crisis

See all 9 stories
Related stories from Sacramento Bee

Sawsan Morrar covers school accountability and culture for The Sacramento Bee. She grew up in Sacramento and is an alumna of UC Berkeley Graduate School of Journalism. She previously freelanced for various publications including The Washington Post, Vice, KQED and Capital Public Radio.