More than 100 children enjoyed free meals at the first Summer Meal Concert Series of the year on Wednesday, June 15, at Washington Elementary School. | Credit: Jun Starkey

Any person under the age of 18 will be able to pick up a meal from one of the 40 distribution sites in Santa Barbara County offering a combination of breakfast, lunch, or dinner over the summer months, as the ninth annual Summer Meal Concert Series kicked off on Wednesday, June 15, at Washington Elementary School.

The Summer Meal Concert Series is a set of performances, usually at a school or community center, meant to raise awareness of the availability of free food throughout the summer from the Santa Barbara Unified School District. At its Wednesday event, more than 100 children came to eat on Washington Elementary’s front lawn, enjoying the musical stylings of DJ Hecktik.

Supported by the national organization No Kid Hungry, the district, the City of Santa Barbara, the Foodbank of Santa Barbara County, United Way, and several other school districts have been able to provide free meals to any person under the age of 18, no verification or sign-ups required, for nine years. 

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School Boardmember and County Supervisor-Elect Laura Capps, who has worked with No Kid Hungry these past nine years, said summer is the most severe time of food insecurity among young people, with many students relying on their schools’ free breakfast and lunch. “Hunger spikes in the summer when kids are no longer connected to school,” Capps said. Despite the vast wealth in Santa Barbara, Capps said Santa Barbara County has a significant rate of poverty and food insecurity. “Even in places like the Mesa, poverty is a real issue in our community.”

The best way for parents or anyone under 18 to find the closest site, Capps said, is to text “FOOD” to 304-304. This will prompt an auto-response, which will ask for an address, then will provide several options closest to that address that provides free food, the hours of operation, and whether breakfast or dinner is also available. 

The Summer Meal Concert Series has several more shows to come in the next few weeks, including Thursday, June 23, at Aliso Elementary School in Carpinteria; Wednesday, June 29, at the Goleta Valley Community Center; and Thursday, June 30, at Franklin Elementary.

Credit: Jun Starkey

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