Throughout New York state, school districts are kicking off their summer meal programs, providing free breakfast and lunch to students.

This is especially important as New York faces a child poverty problem. According to New York State Comptroller Tom DiNapoli, nearly one in five children in the state live in poverty. Summer meal programs ensure they get the nutrition they need. Eating well is vital for staying healthy. 

“None of us can do anything without getting balanced nutrition," said Syracuse Mayor Ben Walsh. 

For some students, that can be harder to accomplish away from school. 

“During the summertime, there can be a big hunger gap," said Rachel Murphy, the director of Food and Nutrition Services for the Syracuse City School District. "And this is how we fill that gap as an organization and as a community partner. The city as a whole cares about feeding children and cares about their futures. This is a way we come together to make sure no kid goes hungry.”

A report released by DiNapoli found more than 2.7 million New York residents lived in poverty in 2022. More than 25% of them were children. 

“We need to wrap around our arms around our kids and provide them with the resources that they may not be getting at home," Walsh said. "That starts with nutrition, that starts with a healthy diet.” 

The program "is extremely vital," said Anthony Davis, the Syracuse City School District superintendent. "Families do the best that they can. So I don’t feel it's just students. We’re supporting families as well. The opportunity to know their children can get a meal, I think, is exactly what we’re trying to accomplish.”

Districts across the state from Buffalo to the Hudson Valley are providing free meals to students at various locations, working together to help the next generation. 

“We are bringing the food to the community," Walsh said. 

“It makes a huge difference in the feel of community," said Davis. "And I think if we can bring back the feel of community, things will get a lot better.” 

To find more information on where you can get free meals for children, visit your local school district's website.