summer meals

Toolkit: Messaging Summer Meals

July 7, 2017

The New Jersey Food For Thought campaign is driven by a statewide coalition committed to combating childhood hunger, led by Advocates for Children of New Jersey and the New Jersey Anti-Hunger Coalition. This effective partnership of state agencies, health, wellness and education organizations, municipal government, child advocates and others has resulted in a significant increase in the number of New Jersey children receiving school breakfast. The coalition is now working to combat childhood by ensuring more kids have summer and afterschool meals. 

Tens of thousands of New Jersey children rely on school meals to get the nutrition they need to be healthy and learn. In the summer, these children lack access to those meals and families struggle to put food on the table.

Federal summer meals programs provide a solution to summertime hunger for kids. Communities across New Jersey are increasingly offering free meals to children in the summer at schools, parks, libraries and other places where children congregate. Not only can kids get healthy meals, they also can connect with friends, engage in fun, healthy activities and get some exercise.

About Summer Meals

Funded through the United States Department of Agriculture (USDA), summer meals ensure that children who rely on free- and reduced-price school meals continue to receive healthy food during the summer.

Typically, a city or town has a summer meal sponsor (usually the school district, city or a community organization, such as the YMCA) that provides food to sites throughout the community. Some sites require children to be enrolled in a recreation or academic program. Others are “open” sites where any child can go to receive free, healthy meals. Learn about becoming a summer meals site.

Parents do not have to provide proof of income or I.D. They simply need to bring their child to a site in their community.

Despite all the benefits of summer meals programs, in 2016, only about 21 percent of New Jersey’s low-income children received this essential nutrition. You can help change that by publicizing summer meals in your community.

For more information about summer meals in New Jersey and to find sites in your community, contact the New Jersey Department of Agriculture at 609-292-4498, or visit the Department’s website.

Get the Word Out!

Parents need to know that these programs are available. Following are some effective outreach strategies that school, city and community leaders can use to ensure parents know these programs are available to their children.

Engage the community. Partner with local agencies, organizations and businesses to distribute flyers through schools, libraries, food pantries, child care centers, recreation programs, housing authorities, supermarkets, hospitals and other community locations.

School outreach. Schools can also play a key role in getting the word out about summer meals. Here is a quick guide for easy outreach strategies that schools can use.

Media outreach. The local media is also an effective outlet for spreading the word about summer meals. View strategies, sample copy.

Community Events. Host a community event to attract parents and children to summer meals sites. 

Get Social. Tips for using social media to spread the word, along with sample posts.

Summer Meals Flyers

Download local summer meals outreach fillable flyer. (English and Spanish Version)

Flyer with Food and Nutrition link to summer meal sites. (English and Spanish Version)

Flyer with contact information to NJ Agriculture. (English and Spanish Version)


This resources was originally published in July 2017 by Advocates for Children of New Jersey and the New Jersey Food for Thought Campaign as Summer Meals for NJ Kids, and is reprinted here with permission.