For most kids, there’s nothing better than the memories of summer.

But the break from the books and the classroom also leaves many kids in New York hungry.

It’s a problem that’s especially prevalent in Schenectady County, says SICM Farms Coordinator Leah Egnaczyk. She has been a farmer with the garden for the past three year. This summer, the space is transforming into a site for those in the community to come together and eat.

“Especially in Schenectady, we are a food desert. It’s really important for our youth to know where the food comes from and connect them to that system,” said Egnaczyk.

According to data from Hunger Solutions, more than 280,000 kids in New York state received most of their meals during school break through free summer food programs. The United Way said more than 50,000 kids in the Capital Region rely on school as their source of food. When summer comes, only one in seven have access to free meals. These staggering numbers explain why the SICM Schenectady Urban Farm is a lifeline for the community.

“Urban farming actually feeds 30% off the world's population, so if we can be a hand in increasing that number, that’s what we love to do,” added Egnaczyk.

The garden will be host to the free summer meals, but this year, it’s much more. Heather Senecal, the director of Learning and Evaluation for United Way of the Greater Capital Region, says this year is about breaking the stigma around food insecurity. United Way is working with partners to bring more than 50 free meal sites across the Capital Region.

“Every kid should have an opportunity in the summer to have fun with their friends — hang out and then get a nutritious and devious meal with that," Senecal said.

The farmers and local groups like United Way and SICM are helping kids get their hands dirty and learn.

“Our food system, we’re really detached from it. Having kids here today and youth here today and being able to see an urban farm, which is something they’ve never seen in their life,“ said Egnaczyk.

“They can learn about it and plant and harvest and eat. All the food that they want. It’s really great to connect kids to the food system," added Senecal.

The mission is to provide activities and a fun learning environment to help combat hunger, while letting kids be kids — and filling their brains and their tummies this summer.

“The beauty of this program is that they can bring together all of those resources so they don’t have to make those difficult decisions in the summer months on how am I going to feed the kids and pay the bills and fuel up my car,” said Senecal.

Twenty million meals are expected to be served to kids across New York state this summer. For more information, to donate to the program or to find a free summer meals site, visit the United Way’s website.