NEW HAVEN, Conn. (WTNH) — Organizations across Connecticut are banning together to make sure kids have access to meals during the summer months.

During a press conference on Friday at the King-Robinson School in New Haven, local officials announced the return of the Free Summer Meal Program.

“School meals are an essential part of helping families feed their kids in healthy ways and when schools is out of session, it makes it a lot harder,” Jennifer Heath, the president and CEO of United Health of Greater New Haven, said.

In the past, the program has served between 5,000 to 6,000 lunch meals to students in New Haven and Hamden a day, plus 3-thousand breakfast meals.

“Hunger is a real challenge in our community, especially childhood hunger. There’s approximately 1 in 4 kids in New haven that are experiencing challenges around hunger. So the work that we need to do, especially over the summer is vital to make sure our kids our healthy,” New Haven Mayor Justin Elicker said.

This meal program is free for students 18 and under, and access is made easy with more than 50 locations in the area. Heath said families do not need to fill out paperwork, they just need to show up.

According to No Kind Hungry, in 2021, 13% of households with children could not afford to buy enough food for their families.  New Haven Public Schools is extending a mobile service during summer break.  

“In New Haven public schools we have a wonderful supper van that we have go into a variety of areas throughout the city and our supper van will still be providing to 12 locations throughout the city during the summer months as well,” Keisha Redd-Hannans, the assistant superintendent for New Haven Public Schools said.

The majority of program meal sites will begin operating on June 26.