HCPS is preparing to feed more than 200,000 children through its Summer Meals Program this month. Food is available at local schools and other locations throughout the county and through the Movin’ Meals buses.

Children all over the Brandon area are fighting hunger this summer thanks to help from Hillsborough County Public Schools (HCPS).

Last June and July more than 200,000 students were able to eat nutritious meals thanks to HCPS’s Summer Meals Program. The program, which began more than 25 years ago, started up again this month and in addition to offering food at local sites, including Brandon and Bloomingdale high schools, HCPS Nutrition Services employees are also using retired and renovated school buses and two refrigerated trucks to deliver meals into neighborhoods.

“The long days of summer are here, but those days can seem even longer when a child is hungry,” said Hillsborough County Schools Media Outreach Specialist Tanya Arja. “HCPS is committed to providing nutritionally balanced meals to children during summer vacation when school breakfast and lunch are not available.”

HCPS offers cold breakfasts and hot lunches, similar to those provided during the school year, to any children under the age of 18 at 75 school sites open for the extended year throughout the county. An additional 75 sites, including many local YMCA locations, offer cold, nutritionally balanced meals including sandwiches, subs, fruits and vegetables.

“All of the meals meet the state nutritional standards and include proteins, grains, fruits, vegetables and dairy,” said Lori Brannon, Ancillary Program Manager with HCPS.

Locations are chosen by HCPS to make sure that areas with most students in need are reached. The mobile Movin’ Meals buses follow a daily route that includes communities where children may not easily be able to get to one of the traditional sites.

“So many parents have to worry about how to feed their children over the summer, especially when they are dealing with the extra costs of camps and day care with school out,” said Brannon. “We have the resources to help and we want to let people know what we offer.”

The food is available to all Hillsborough County residents under the age of 18, whether or not they qualify for free or reduced lunch during the school year.

To find the nearest food distribution location, visit www,freshfromflorida.com or text 211. Any Hillsborough County public school can also point residents to the closest Summer Meals Program location.

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Assignment Editor Kate Quesada started working at the Osprey Observer in 2004 after graduating from the University of South Florida with a masters degree in Mass Communications. Since then, she has held various positions at the paper and has been working as the assignment editor since January 2020. She lives in Lithia with her husband Mike and sons Dylan and Max and stays active in the community on school PTA boards and volunteering with local organizations.