Mayor Wu announces annual launch of summer meal sites and farmers markets to provide healthy meals at no cost across the city
Mayor Michelle Wu and the Mayor’s Office of Food Justice (OFJ) today announced that 110 Boston Summer Eats meal sites are open and will run throughout the summer until September 1. Boston Summer Eats is an effort to close the summer food gap by making available community-based meal sites at locations such as libraries, health centers, community centers, and farmers markets that are open to all youth 18 and under. The program launched in 2017 with the goal of expanding access to free and healthy meals for youth and teens in Boston.
As food insecurity persists- with over 50% of Black and Latinx Massachusetts residents experiencing food insecurity, according to a recent report from the Greater Boston Food Bank– Mayor Wu has allocated $400,000 in American Rescue Plan Act (ARPA) funds to continue the citywide Farmers Market Coupon Program this summer. These funds will help families in communities with high rates of food insecurity access fresh food. The citywide program began July 1, making fresh food available to low-income residents at farmers markets throughout the City until the end of October. OFJ partners with the Age Strong Commission and 24 community health centers and community-based organizations to distribute coupon booklets to low-income residents experiencing food insecurity. These coupons can be used for fresh food at 22 farmers markets and farm stands around the City. The program complements state and federal initiatives like SNAP, HIP, WIC, and Senior Farmers Market Coupons and specifically ensures access for households who may not be eligible for other benefit programs due to documentation status.
“Both our Boston Eats program and the Farmers Market Coupon Program support families to access nutritious, healthy and locally produced foods right in their communities with their neighbors,” said Mayor Michelle Wu. “By partnering with 110 community meal sites and 22 farmers markets and farm stands, the City is working to build vibrant food access points in every neighborhood to ensure no family is left without a meal to eat.”
Residents who wish to access free meals for youth aged 18 and under can find sites at boston.gov/summer-eats or find additional locations across Massachusetts by calling Project Bread’s FoodSource Hotline at 1-800-645-8333. Hours of operation at summer meal sites vary depending on the site, and most meal sites will offer breakfast and lunch, while some also provide snacks. No registration or identification is required. This year, there will be no “grab and go” options available at sites. Youth will be strongly encouraged to eat on site.
“We are proud to partner with the City and with many sites across Boston to ensure fun and safe places for youth of all ages to enjoy healthy food together,” said Eilisha Manandhar, Senior Director of Hunger Prevention of the YMCA of Greater Boston. “YMCA sites and the community partners we support are ready to welcome youth across the City to provide nutritious, culturally appropriate meals. Many sites will provide fun activities that educate our young people on the importance of eating healthy."
"Just as we ensure that learning continues throughout the summer, we are committed to supporting students who face food insecurity year round by providing access to meals at Boston Public Schools throughout the summer," said Boston Public Schools Superintendent, Mary Skipper.
The Boston Summer Eats program is a partnership of the Mayor’s Office of Food Justice (OFJ), Boston Public Schools, the Greater Boston YMCA and Project Bread, which supports the statewide program in partnership with the Department of Elementary and Secondary Education, and hundreds of meal providers, in Massachusetts. City of Boston sites include select Boston Public Library (BPL), Boston Housing Authority (BHA), and Boston Public Schools (BPS) locations, as well as farmers markets and community organizations.
“Project Bread is proud to partner with the City of Boston’s Office of Food Justice, the Greater Boston YMCA, and Boston Public Schools on Summer Eats because it means that kids and teens can eat for free all summer long. These meals bring our young people together to enjoy healthy food and keep our communities connected when school is out,” said Erin McAleer, President and CEO of Project Bread. “There are free meals at Summer Eats locations throughout the Commonwealth. No registration or ID is needed so it is a resource every family can use to keep their kids and teens healthy and having fun throughout the summer. That is good for all of us!”
Additionally, farmers market season launched in June, open through October. The Office of Food Justice encourages residents who receive SNAP, P-EBT, and WIC benefits to access programs available at farmers markets, especially the Healthy Incentives Program (HIP), where each SNAP dollar spent on fresh produce provides access to $2 worth of food for the household. In addition, the City’s Farmers Market coupons are available for food insecure households from 25 community based organizations and community health centers in Boston, including Allston-Brighton, Charlestown, Chinatown, Dorchester, East Boston, Fenway, Hyde Park, Jamaica Plain, Mattapan, Roslindale, Roxbury, and South Boston. The goal of the Farmers Markets Coupon Program is to support households who do not qualify for federal and state programs, including but not limited to immigrants and refugees. OFJ partners with 25 organizations which distribute coupons to their local communities. Distribution partners have limited coupons available. More information, including how to contact coupon distribution partners, is available at boston.gov/farmersmarkets.
The recent end to emergency COVID SNAP benefits reduced SNAP benefits for Boston residents by an estimated $13M per month, reducing the relief provided to eligible families. Massachusetts will be providing Summer Pandemic-EBT benefits to households with children in Boston Public Schools. A one-time payment of $120 will be available on July 25th. More information about Pandemic-EBT is available at map-ebt.org. Summer Eats and the Farmers Market Coupon Program are part of a strategy that sustains Boston residents while stimulating the local food economy.
A list of all farmers markets-with food access programs available- can be found here.
“Across Boston, families are struggling to afford healthy food as emergency SNAP benefits have ended and food insecurity rates remain high. Food access programs at farmers markets and summer meal programs are two critical ways that communities come together to provide access and address food insecurity to Boston neighborhoods. Through these programs, the City and our partners fill immediate food security needs, ensure community members have opportunities to choose culturally relevant food, and stimulate the local economy by working with local farmers and vendors,” said Aliza Wasserman, Director of the Office of Food Justice.
For more information about food resources available, visit here