A mobile application that shows parents and students what will be served for lunch during the school year will serve a different purpose during the summer.
Nutrislice, an app that launched at the beginning of the 2013-2014 school year in Florida, will show locations that offer the Summer Meal Program. The Summer Meal Program, funded by the federal government, allows children up to 18 years old to eat free breakfast and lunch at any of the feeding sites during the summer months.
Caron Rowe, marketing specialist for Alachua County Schools Food and Nutrition, said there are no additional requirements to participate in the Summer Meal Program, except the meal must be eaten on site.
The program will run from June 12 to the first week of August.
Easier access to this information through the app may help alleviate food insecurity in Alachua County by providing kids who do not have regular access to enough nutritious meals with a regular serving schedule.
“You got young families where the husband and wife are both working and still don’t make enough,” said Loretta Griffis, director of community outreach at Bread of the Mighty Food Bank. “I don’t think people realize the gravity of the situation. There is a huge need out there.”
One in five adults are considered food insecure in the county, she said.
Families whose income level is near or below the federal poverty level are also at risk of being food insecure, said Marcia Conwell, the executive director of Bread of the Mighty Food Bank.
A household of four making $24,250 is living at the federal poverty level, according to the 2015 federal income poverty guidelines.
And people who make as little as one dollar above minimum wage may see a reduction in Supplemental Nutrition Assistance Program (SNAP) benefits or food stamps, said Conwell.
In Alachua County, the estimated number of food insecure individuals is 47,410, according to Feeding America’s 2014 Map the Meal Gap report.
Griffis said children who do not get regular and adequate nutritious meals may be considered “disruptive” or be diagnosed with Attention Deficit Disorder (ADHD). Children need to be fed nutritious meals to grow and thrive, she said.
“A lot of these kids are just plain hungry,” she said, “You feed them, and then they can settle down and learn.”
In summer 2014, the Summer Meal Program fed close to 34,000 children, Alachua County School’s Rowe said. Last summer, all the sites were located at schools except for one at the Martin Luther King Center.
Mike Craig, a co-founder of Nutrislice, said the app will turn into a food finder and help children find nutritious meals during the summer.