Free Summer Meals for Kids Program Kicks Off in Pierce County

One in six children struggles with hunger and many children who rely on school meals, struggle to get enough to eat during the summer months. This fact is unacceptable to United Way of Pierce County as well as many local health and human service partners that are fighting hunger. Together, they are helping to provide kids with nutritious food at various sites during the summer months (from June 25-August 30).

More than 100 children, families and volunteers turned out for the kickoff event held at the Drake Apartment complex in Tacoma, sponsored by Century Link. It brought employees from across Century Link  departments together to learn more and by rolling up their sleeves to dig into the work—with activities focused on activities with books and serving food.

“We are glad we had the opportunity to help United Way celebrate the worldwide Day of Action, and we had a great time helping the children at the Drake Apartments with summer learning activities! We are thrilled with this partnership because it brings home the work that needs to be done to support children and families in Pierce County,” said Robert Betancourt, Manager, Regional Operations, CenturyLink.

In addition to offering free, nutritious meals, several of the sites provide an incentive for children to participate in summer enrichment programs, which means that children are not only well fed, but engaged in academic and recreational activities.

“The Summer Meals program ensures that low-income children continue to receive nutritious meals when school is not in session,” said Lindsay Morgan Tracy, Vice President, Community Impact and Engagement for United Way of Pierce County. “Last year, Summer Meals partners served more than150,000 meals, but because of barriers to accessing sites, like transportation, limited walkability and awareness, only 20% of the children who qualified for free school meals, were able to participate in the program.”

Raising awareness and advocating for important food assistance programs like SNAP are part of the hunger puzzle. Earlier this year, United Way along with many partners worked with legislators to ensure that Breakfast After the Bell (House Bill 1508) passed to help address student hunger and increase family financial stability by making breakfast part of the school day – just like lunch. 

Summer Meals is a federally funded program providing free lunches and sometimes breakfast and snack, for any child 18 and younger who lives within a qualified school area or neighborhood area. To qualify, schools must have 50% or more students signed up for the free and reduced price lunch program.

The majority of sites receive federal reimbursement for qualified sites. There are challenges with serving schools and neighborhoods where there are hungry children, but not enough to meet the 50% USDA threshold. Some nonprofit organizations are using the private pay model to ensure children are fed, while others partners host serving sites where there are hungry kids, but the sites do not qualify under USDA guidelines. These sites receive funding through private donations and grants.

Summer Meals partners are: Bethel School District, Boys & Girls Clubs, Clover Park School District, Families Unlimited Network, Food Backpacks 4 Kids, Franklin Pierce School District, Metro Parks, Orting Food Bank, Pierce County Library System, Prairie Ridge Community Center, St. Leo Food Connection, Sumner School District and YMCA of Pierce & Kitsap Counties. To learn more, visit to find sites, locations, dates and times or you may call South Sound 2-1-1 by simply dialing 2-1-1 for more information.


United Way of Pierce County has a bold goal to lift 15,000 households out of poverty and into financial stability by 2028. We will achieve this by mobilizing local businesses, community organizations, governmental agencies and individuals, to make a long-term measurable difference in our community. Together, we are creating a stronger community. To learn more or to join our fight against poverty in Pierce County, visit


Media Contact:  Katherine Ransom, Vice President, Marketing & Communications