Around two-thirds of Texas children rely on free or reduced-price lunch during the school year, Feeding Texas CEO Celia Cole said.

“When school shuts down, a lot of those kids lose access to the nutrition they need during the summer months,” Cole said. “And so typically, we see child hunger go up, and our food banks see that in their lines; they see an increase in families needing help feeding their kids—summer hunger is a real problem.”

In response, local governments, school districts and nonprofits across the state have partnered with the Texas Department of Agriculture to offer free meals and snacks to children age 18 and younger and students with disabilities up to 21 years old.

What you need to know

To find organizations participating in the Summer Meals Program, families can:
  • Visit for an interactive site map
  • Text “FOOD” or “COMIDA” to 304-304
  • Call 211 to speak to an operator in English or Spanish
Officials recommend calling sites in advance to confirm their operating hours and how meals will be served.

Families do not have to apply, register or provide identification to receive food from the program. Meal sites are located in low-income areas, such as communities where over 50% of children are eligible for free or reduced-price lunch, TDA officials said in a news release.

Some sites in rural areas offer multi-day meal bundles for families who cannot go daily.

“[The program] ensures that children have access to nutritious meals, helping them stay active and healthy throughout the summer break, and return to school ready to thrive,” Texas Agriculture Commissioner Sid Miller said in the release.

A closer look

Just about 10% of students who receive free or reduced-price lunch also participate in the Summer Meals Program, Cole said.

“The main reason for that low participation is just the challenge of kids getting to those sites in the summer months,” she told Community Impact in February.

Cole said she encourages families to visit their local food banks and, if eligible, apply for benefits through the Supplemental Nutrition Assistance Program, or SNAP. Low-income adults may qualify for SNAP if they are working or looking for a job; are pregnant; have a disability; or are at least 60 years old.

Texans can search for food banks by ZIP code here.

Also of note

This summer, the United States Department of Agriculture launched the Summer Electronic Benefit Transfer Program, or Summer EBT, which gives eligible families up to $120 per child to supplement the cost of food during summer break. Texas is one of 15 states that did not opt in to the program.

“For families that don't have a site near them, or face transportation issues or whatever barriers there are to participating in the traditional Summer [Meals] Program, Summer EBT offered a really good alternative option. So we are hopeful that the state will get that program up and running next summer,” Cole said.

Feeding Texas estimated Summer EBT would serve about 3.7 million children and provide families with $430 million in additional food benefits, Community Impact previously reported.

Over 22% of Texas children experience food insecurity, meaning they do not have consistent access to food, Feeding America found.