Free Lunch from a Vending Machine

Kids in Weslaco, a working-class border town in Texas, got a free breakfast and lunch from an unusual place: a vending machine at a neighborhood community center.

For kids who rely on school meals, summer can be the hardest time of year. That’s why No Kid Hungry is always looking for new and better ways to make sure more kids get the food they need.

Though some schools and community centers serve free meals in the summertime, plenty of children have trouble taking advantage of them, because they live too far away or because there’s no one to walk or drive them during the day.

Our solution: a vending machine at a centrally-located community center where kids can get breakfast and lunch. Breakfast options available in the machine include healthy cereals like Honey Nut Cheerios (spoon and milk included), and for lunch there are a few choices, like peanut butter and jelly sandwiches and boxed snack meals.

To use the machine, local low-income families were given codes for each child that could be used to receive two meals each day.

The vending machines were a pilot project; a test to see how effective the idea turned out to be for children. Though a formal report is not yet available, staff at the community center reported that the machines were a huge success, sometime with kids waiting in line.

“We’ll also be gathering data to see if this might meet a need for children on weekends, holidays, during spring and summer breaks or after school hours, because the possibilities for machines like this are limitless,” said Debra Franco, who works for the Texas Hunger Initiative, No Kid Hungry’s nonprofit partner in Texas.

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