NEW BEDFORD (WBSM) — New Bedford Public Schools and New Bedford Parks Recreation & Beaches are bringing good food and family fun to almost 30 meal sites across the city this summer.

Summer Eats, a statewide free meal program, offers free meals for any child or teen 18 years of age and younger.

Last summer, the organization served more than 145,000 meals in the community. Last July, more than 2.1 million meals were served across over 1,400 sites in Massachusetts through the program.

This year, meal sites is operating from Friday, June 21 through Friday, August 23.

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Every weekday, the New Bedford Parks Recreation & Beaches “Play in the Park” offers free food and activities, including sports, games, and art, and free dinner and activities every Tuesday and Thursday.

This summer, the department is utilizing its Rec & Relaxation Van to bring lunch to two sites daily, five days per week, including two days at the PACE Food Pantry.

In addition, it will be partnering with the Fairhaven Parks and Recreation Department to create a new open site at Livesey Park in Fairhaven.

What Is Summer Eats?

Summer Eats assists families by providing free meals to children and teens to ensure they continue growing, learning, and thriving over summer break.

Simply by reducing the financial burden some families may face throughout the summer, Summer Eats has impacted the community in significant ways.

“Last week, a mom of two called Project Bread worried about how she’d feed her kids when school lets out. She’s not alone. In the summer, many families are forced to stretch exhausted grocery budgets even further. Summer Eats is such an important program because it helps close that gap,” Project Bread President & CEO Erin McAleer said.

How the Summer Eats Program Works

New Bedford Public Schools will offer free meals to all kids and teens at 13 schools and Fort Taber Playground. Ten schools will provide breakfast and lunch, and four sites will serve lunch.

Activities at the sites will include yard games, arts & crafts, obstacle courses, sports, raffles and more.

Participating meal providers operate and staff meal sites while also offering activities and educational programming. This year, feeding kids on site has become available, and all are welcome, with no registration or ID required.

Summer Eats can also obtained with Summer EBT, which provides additional funding for groceries while kids are out of school.

For more than 20 years, the Massachusetts Department of Elementary and Secondary Education (DESE) and statewide food security nonprofit Project Bread have partnered to support meal providers in offering Summer Eats meals to children in Massachusetts.

Throughout the school year, the nonprofit and DESE also partner to expand access to and participation in school meal programs. Project Bread has granted $226,000 to 51 Summer Eats sponsors for their program outreach and capacity-building this year.

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