Only 10 percent of eligible children in Columbus have access to free summer meals. Columbus City Council on Monday voted to approve $2.6 million in funding to expand the city’s summer meal program to help bridge the gap.
The city started "open sites" last year to provide food to children who aren’t registered with the summer meal program. This summer, Columbus City Council member Elizabeth Brown says they're expanding to four locations to reach more children.
“All kids are in one place during the school year. It’s very easy to make sure we’ve got this nutritional food in front of them," Brown said. "But in the summer when kids are more dispersed, it is much harder to match the food with the child.”
The program will also offer so-called "Buddy Boxes," filled with kid-friendly food meant to help feed children over weekends.
Columbus City Schools spokesman Scott Varner says the new options, along with the breakfasts, lunches and snacks the summer meal program typically offers, will help ensure kids have access to food seven days a week.
“Whether it’s through the normal programs that run Monday through Friday, or if they’re able to take something home with them so that Saturday and Sunday are covered too, so that they always have access to a healthy meal,” Varner said. “That should never be a barrier to success and to being safe during the summer.”
Brown says the open site locations are projected to reach 700 children.
Updated: May 7 at 2:30 p.m.