SYRACUSE, N.Y. – When school is out for the summer, millions of children lose access to school meals that include dairy, leaving them at the risk of going hungry. Dairy farmers in the American Dairy Association North East region recognize this problem and are doing their part to ensure kids can receive nutritious food when school is out.
The Summer Food Service Program was established by USDA and ADA North East joins forces with local community groups to support the program and to secure dairy’s place as part of healthy meals.
“Ensuring children aren’t missing meals during the summer months is a priority for dairy farmers, and therefore a priority for dairy checkoff,” said ADA North East CEO John Chrisman. “We fully support the Summer Meals program to help fill this nutritional gap in our local communities.”
Meals are free to children 18 years and under and include milk and other nutritious foods like fruit and vegetables and more. Feeding sites are located across the region’s low-income areas.
Dairy farmers Caleb and Alice Crothers from Long Green Farms, Rising Sun, Md., took a Holstein calf to downtown Baltimore to kick off the city’s Summer Meals program that provides milk and meals to students when school is out.
“As a dairy farmer, I care deeply about providing high quality, nutritious dairy products to our community,” said Alice Crothers. “It was great to connect with these students who rely on school meals during the school year and in the summer about where their food comes from, and to have our daughters share about our farm and animals.”
Dairy farmer Lisa Mesch of JLM Dairy, Collins, N.Y., and daughter Erie County Dairy Ambassador Jocelyn Mesch, along with Erie County Associate Ambassador Payge Murray, took a Holstein calf to downtown Buffalo to kick off the city’s Summer Meals program. They were joined by Buffalo Bills player and dairy advocate Isaiah McKenzie as part of ADA North East’s partnership with Fuel Up to Play 60.
Many families are not aware that meals are still available when school is out and may need to spend up to $300 a month to feed children during the summer months. To find a Summer Meals site, families can text “SUMMER MEALS” to 97779.
In response, ADA North East has also established a geo-targeted social media campaign to promote Summer Meals. It helps families find nearby sites in their neighborhoods through digital ads on ADA North East’s Facebook, Instagram and TikTok pages. Ads have been launched in English in 20 cities in our region, in addition to Spanish versions in Baltimore, New York City and Philadelphia, and several New Jersey cities.
Of the 20 million students across the nation who are eligible for free and reduced-price lunches during the school year, less than five million participated in the Summer Food Service Program last year, leaving 15 million children unserved.
“We’re doing our part to make sure kids and families have access to milk and meals, so no one has to go hungry,” added Chrisman.