July 17, 2023

By Carolina Hunger Initiative

With all the great efforts to assure every child in North Carolina has access to nutritious school breakfasts and lunches, you may be wondering: What happens to the kids who rely on these meals for their daily nutrition when school lets out for the summer? The answer is simple: NC Summer Nutrition Programs make sure there are still meals available at no cost for the kids who need them, and Farm to Summer programs ensure we take advantage of fresh and local produce in summer meals.


The NC Summer Nutrition Programs provide free meals for children and teens age 18 and younger during the summer months while school is not in session. No registration, application, or ID is required. Meals served follow USDA nutrition guidelines to ensure they provide kids with the fuel needed to play, learn, and grow. 


Free summer meals are available at more than 2,500 registered summer meal site locations in North Carolina and are spread across the state to be more accessible to families living in low-income areas. Summer meal sites are safe places for kids and teens to go, such as schools, faith-based facilities, camps, parks, libraries, and community centers.


The NC Summer Nutrition Programs are also paired with Farm to Summer. In North Carolina, summer coincides with the peak growing season for local farmers and producers. Summer meal sponsors have the opportunity to tap into locally sourced foods and incorporate these ingredients into their summer meals. Farm to Summer is an extension of the Farm to School initiative and encompasses a variety of efforts that can include: 

  • Serving locally sourced foods (in meals, snacks, or taste tests), 
  • Conducting educational activities centered around local food, nutrition, and agriculture such as field trips to local farms or farmers markets, hosting farmers at summer meal sites, or offering cooking demos or classes, and/or 
  • Creating and/or tending to local gardens where edible fruits and vegetables are grown. 

The NC Department of Public Instruction’s Office of School Nutrition works with school and community partners to support and promote Farm to Summer activities across the state. A week is designated during the summer each year as NC Farm to Summer Week. For 2023, Farm to Summer Week is: July 17-23. School districts and community organization sponsors for NC Summer Nutrition Programs are encouraged to take the NC Farm to Summer Challenge by completing one or more of the following during NC Farm to Summer Week through the end of the summer:  

  • Serve local foods as part of meals and/or snacks. 
  • Teach about local foods through farm to summer activities. 
  • Post about farm to summer activities on social media using #NCFarmtoSummer, #NCSummerMeals, @NCSchoolMeals, and @Ray4NCKids.
  • Sign up for the North Carolina Crunch to celebrate Farm to School in October. 


Finding free, appealing, nutritious meals for kids and teens this summer is easy! Pick an option below, but don’t forget to contact sites ahead of visiting to verify information like times and location. 

  • Text FOOD or COMIDA to 304-304 to receive a text with nearby sites with meals for kids.
  • Find summer meals at SummerMeals4NCKids.org.
  • Click Here to use the NC Site Finder Map from the NC Department of Public Instruction to find summer meals sites across the state.
  • Check your local school district’s website, social media, and other communications for the most up-to-date information. 
  • Additional food resources can be found in your area food bank or food pantry

Note: Most summer meal site information is only available late May through August in North Carolina, which is when most K-12 schools are closed for summer break. The meal site list is updated weekly. Meal site information might not appear on the texting hotline results unless the meal site is currently open.

We all benefit when we put kids first. Free summer meals for all in NC is a powerful program that ensures kids have the nutrition they need to have a successful summer and are prepared for the next school year. Keep following School Meals For All NC to learn how we can extend this benefit into the school year to offer no-cost nutritious breakfast and lunch to all students!

Follow #NCSummerMeals and #NCFarmtoSummer on social media:

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