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Summer Meals for All Children Are Provided at Communities Around South Dakota

Originally written by Jennifer Folliard, former SDSU Extension Family & Community Health Field Specialist; Francesca Benson, former SDSU Extension Family & Community Health Field Specialist; and Prairie Walking, SDSU Extension Master Gardener Field Specialist. Updated by Anna Tvedt, SDSU Extension Nutrition Field Specialist.

Every summer, communities across South Dakota serve free meals to children, to ensure good nutrition and growth. The USDA works with the South Dakota Department of Education’s Child and Adult Nutrition Services office (abbreviated as CANS) to make sure that when school is out children are well-nourished throughout the summer with summer meals programs. Persons with a disability over the age of 18 who participate in school programs are eligible for free meals as well. Parents are welcome to eat with their children, but in most cases, parents will have to pay for their meal.

Finding a Meal Site

Summer meals being served to families in a public park.
(U.S. Department of Agriculture photo)

Sites across South Dakota serve breakfast, lunch, and/or a snack. No paperwork or proof of income is required to participate in summer meal programs. To find a site serving free summer meals, the USDA provides a Site Finder tool that will direct you to the closest site. If you prefer, you can also text “Summer Meals” or “Verano” to 97779 or “Food” or “Comida” to 877-877. You can also call 1-866-348-6479 or 1-877-8-HAMBRE (Español) to find a site near you.

During the school year, over 100,000 South Dakota children receive free and reduced-price meals through the National School Lunch Program. In 2018, summer meals only served about 6% of those children that received meals during the year. Summer meals are run through your local school nutrition program or through non-profit organizations, like churches, libraries, or youth centers. If you are interested in becoming a summer meal sponsoring organization, contact the state’s CANS office to get on next summer’s contact list.

    Getting to a Meal Site

    School lunch volunteers serving to-go meals at a mobile lunch site.
    (U.S. Department of Agriculture photo)

    Transportation can be a challenge for children whose parents work or who cannot drive them. Communities address this challenge through unique partnerships and grant funding. In some locations, summer meals programs may be mobile, bringing meals to children! Some communities may have partnerships with organizations like Meals on Wheels to bring mobile summer meals to children, and they have additional funding to allow parents or grandparents to eat with children at no cost. Other locations may bring children to the meal sites with school or public busing. These, along with other best practices, can increase children’s access to summer meals and ensure good health and nutrition in summer months.

    To learn more about summer meals offered in your area and the transportation options, try watching your local news or contacting your local school district.

    USDA Nondiscrimination Statement

    In accordance with federal civil rights law and the U.S. Department of Agriculture (abbreviated as USDA) civil rights regulations and policies, the USDA, its agencies, offices, and employees; and institutions participating in or administering USDA programs; are prohibited from discriminating based on race, color, national origin, sex, religious creed, disability, age, political beliefs, or reprisal or retaliation for prior civil rights activity in any program or activity conducted or funded by USDA.

    Persons with disabilities who require alternative means of communication for program information (for example, braille, large print, audiotape, American Sign Language, or other accommodations), should contact the agency (state or local) where they applied for benefits. Individuals who are deaf, hard of hearing, or have speech disabilities may contact the USDA through the Federal Relay Service at 800-877-8339. Additionally, program information may be made available in languages other than English.

    Reporting Discrimination

    To file a program complaint of discrimination, complete the USDA Program Discrimination Complaint Form (AD-3027) found online and at any USDA office, or write a letter addressed to USDA providing all of the information requested in the form.

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    To request a copy of the complaint form, call 866-632-9992. Submit your completed form or letter to USDA by:

    • Mail: U.S. Department of Agriculture
      Office of the Assistant Secretary for Civil Rights
      1400 Independence Avenue, SW
      Washington, D.C. 20250-9410
    • Fax: 202-690-7442
    • Email:

    This institution is an equal opportunity provider.

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