Des Moines, IA

Get Free Food for Families at These Summer Meal Sites

Kimberly Ritter

Are you looking for a way to stretch your budget and to make sure your kids eat healthy this summer? A program called Summer Meal Meet-Ups is making sure that Des Moines area kids can receive free meals throughout the summer. Here’s what you need to know for your family to participate!
Summer Meal Meet-UpsImage Courtesy of United Way of Central Iowa

School is out and most families are facing increased food costs with their children home from school for the summer. This added expense can put strain on family budgets.

In Des Moines and across central Iowa, more than 40,000 students qualify for free or reduced price-meals, however only 3000 children take advantage of free summer meal programs. With COVID-19, it is anticipated that student need is higher than ever and that many families are struggling with food insecurity.

To help make sure these children are receiving access to healthy food, an Iowa United Way program is here to help. Summer Meal Meet-Ups, a program offering free meals to kids throughout the summer, invites anyone ages 18 and under to one of the many meal sites in Iowa to receive free and nutritious meals.

“Summer Meal Meet-Up’s is one element to United Way of Central Iowa’s OpportUNITY Plan to fight poverty, focusing on increasing access to food as a basic and essential need for children and families to thrive,” said Renée Miller, Chief Community Impact Officer at United Way of Central Iowa in a statement.

“Summer Meal Meet-Ups help ensure the children in our community continue to receive healthy food when they’re not in school. Right now, with so many kids more isolated than ever, this opportunity to receive food is more critical than ever.”

Wondering where you can find these meals for your children in the Des Moines area? Meal sites are located at schools, parks, or other organizations, and site sponsors – or hosts that are approved by the Iowa Department of Education.

These approved locations will offer grab-and-go meals, similar to those that many school districts offered earlier this year. Anyone up to age 18 can receive a free meal. No registration or sign up is required. Parents can pick up their meals for their kids and children do not need to be present due to the new USDA guidance.

Unlike in years past, activities will not be offered nor will kids congregate at meal sites.

The meals offered during Summer Meal Meet-Ups are available at no charge. To find a meal site near you, go to, call 211, or text “Food” or “Comida” to 877-877. Services are available in both English and Spanish to offer assistance.

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