Project Bread's Free Lunch Texting Program Goes Statewide
Text 4 Food Will Help Feed Teens throughout Massachusetts
(Boston, MA – July 6, 2012) Project Bread is proud to announce the expansion of its summer food campaign, Text 4 Food, which helps teens and preteens find a healthy lunch simply by using their cell phones. The program is now statewide.
Here’s how it works: teens text 617-863-MEAL (617-863-6325), and they receive a text back telling them where to find a free lunch program near them. When teens arrive at the summer meal site, they can enjoy a healthy meal and participate in fun activities. Teens can also use the program by using Twitter @txt4food.
The teens’ texts, which are strictly confidential, are answered by counselors on Project Bread’s FoodSource Hotline, which is the most comprehensive food counseling hotline in the state. Counselors can provide up-to-date info on any open food site in the state. An “open site” is one open to all children through age 18 and requires no pre-registration or sign up.
Counselors hope to increase teen and preteen participation at these Summer Food Service Programs because they are federally-funded and sponsored by the USDA and are a way for low-income children who rely on school meals have access to free lunch in the summer.
In the past, it has been difficult to engage teens and preteens in these programs due to the difficulty of reaching them through traditional channels, such as parents or schools, and because there’s been a limited amount of teen-friendly programming at the meal sites. Now in its third year, Text 4 Food aims to remove the stigma that can come with taking advantage of free food services by using a teen’s favorite piece of technology – the cell phone.
Project Bread was the first in the country to realize the potential of a teen’s cell phone and texting as an outreach tool. First started in 2010, Text 4 Food was also successfully offered to teens and preteens in the Boston area last year. The idea soon caught on and was picked up in Minnesota and by Share Our Strength, a national organization.
“Teens who would normally receive free or reduced-price meals during the school year are the most underserved population during the summer because they are working or ‘on the move’ — and yet they are rapidly growing and need nutritious food,” said Ellen Parker, executive director of Project Bread. “This means they go hungry or fill up on junk food.
“Our texting campaign allows them to use their cell phones to find a summer food program that offers free meals near them. This is especially important for teens who are on the move in the city. It’s their GPS for a good lunch.”
Project Bread works to increase participation in the 877 summer meal sites across Massachusetts. It focuses its efforts on adding new sites to neighborhood parks or swimming pools, expanding sites to be able to handle more children, adding a recreation components if needed (from basketballs to books), providing equipment such as coolers, targeting difficult-to-reach populations like teens, and improving the quality of the food offered. To this end, Project Bread gave over $90,000 to over 30 programs throughout the state this year. Parents and guardians can learn more by calling Project Bread’s FoodSource Hotline at 1-800-248-8877.
“What’s important,” said Parker, “is that all children have a safe place to get a nutritious meal and have some summer fun so that they return to school in the fall ready to learn.”
About Project Bread
As the state’s leading anti-hunger organization, Project Bread is dedicated to alleviating,