Free Summer Eats Program in Full Swing in East Boston

With school out and summer in full swing, children that receive free or reduced breakfast and lunches during the school year might have been out of a meal if it wasn’t for the free summer food programs sponsored by the City of Boston and the East Boston YMCA.

Many children in Eastie depend on school breakfast and lunches as their main source of nutrition.  For many of these young kids it becomes more difficult to get the nutritious foods they need to grow healthy and strong during the summer.

Last Wednesday, Mayor Michelle Wu and the Mayor’s Office of Food Justice (OFJ) announced that 155 Boston Summer Eats Program meal sites opened July 5, 2022, running throughout the summer. Wu said Boston Summer Eats is an innovative effort to lessen the summer food gap by increasing the availability of non-traditional meal sites that are open to all households. The program launched in 2017 with the goal to expand access to free and healthy meals for youth and teens in Boston.

“Boston’s Summer Eats program and our Farmer’s Market coupon program supports a food systems approach to provide residents with nutritious foods that also support our local economy and the health of our planet,” said Mayor Wu. “I am excited to get out to some of our Summer Eats and Farmers Market sites and encourage residents to visit them as well.” 

Over in Eastie the East Boston YMCA partners with with organizations like BCYF Paris Street, Maverick Landing, Spinellis, Piers Park Sailing, East Boston Library and others to help provide free food to 9 sites in Eastie and support five other school based sites like the one at East Boston High School.

East Boston YMCA Executive Director Joe Gaeta said since the pandemic hit in 2020 the Eastie Y have served over a million meals in the neighborhood and projects they will serve close to 300,000 this summer alone.

“The Summer Eats program has been a staple of the East Boston YMCA and the East Boston community,” said Gaeta. “Each year we grow and add more program sites for the community to have access to fresh meals when school is out. Strong community partnerships are the reason this program is so successful, if it wasn’t for our partner locations the reach of this program would be as great as it is. We are thankful to our many partners such as Project Bread that lead the way to ensure we are feeding our community.”

Residents who wish to access free meals for youth aged 18 and under can find sites at or find additional locations across the state by texting “Food” or “Comida” to 304-304. Hours of operation vary depending on the site, and most meal sites are currently offering breakfast, lunch and snacks. No registration or identification is required. This year, there will be no “grab and go” options available at sites. Youth will be strongly encouraged to eat on site.

The Boston Summer Eats program is led by the OFJ and the Greater Boston YMCA, a sponsor for the Department of Elementary and Secondary Education (DESE). The program is in partnership with Project Bread, the Shah Foundation as well as many community partners and City of Boston sites including Boston Public Library (BPL), Boston Housing Authority (BHA), and Boston Public Schools (BPS).

“Summer should be a joyous time where children and youth should not have to worry about food,” said . President/CEO of the YMCA of Greater Boston James O’S. Morton, Esq. “Boston Summer Eats removes barriers for children and youth and makes it easy for them to access food across the City. Through strong collaboration with partners, we are able to not only distribute meals, but culturally appropriate meals that children and youth want.”

Another resource that households with children can use together with Summer Eats is the Pandemic-EBT (P-EBT) program. Pandemic EBT is also available for families when schools are closed. All students in Boston schools are eligible for P-EBT as well as infants and children 0-5 years old whose families get SNAP benefits. K-12 students will receive a total of $391 in P-EBT benefits in two equal payments of $195.50 this summer. The first payment was issued on July 3 and the second payment will be issued on August 3.

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