The Missouri Department of Health and Senior Services offers an online map that can help low-income families find where children can receive free meals over the summer.
The map, found at ogi.oa.mo.gov/DHSS/summerFood/index.html, shows most locations where meals are available for children 18 and younger, according to a DHSS news release.
Meals are also available to people up to age 21 who have been determined by a state or local educational agency to be mentally or physically disabled and who participate in an established school program for people who are mentally or physically disabled.
More information about the Summer Food Service Program may be found at health.mo.gov/sfsp. The map is search-able by city, county or ZIP code.
Summer meal sites in the area may also be found by texting "Summer Meals" to 97779.
Shannon Stokes, chief programs officer for The Food Bank for Central & Northeast Missouri, said getting food to children during the COVID-19 pandemic has been "topsy-turvy."
State rules have been changed this year to allow schools to provide lunches outside the cafeteria.
"Schools are providing lunches outside the cafeteria. The rule requiring kids to be together isn't in place right now," Stokes said.
And because schools have better access to the children who need lunches than other institutions, local school leaders have taken the responsibility to deliver meals through the summer.
The food bank had been working with the United Way on plans to provide meals during the summer.
"The schools reach so many more kids than we do," Stokes said. "And we're doing what we can by continuing with Buddy Packs — they typically stop at the end of the school year. We are continuing with them on Fridays."
Even with the schools' help, there are pockets within the community where nonprofits or churches are providing meals for children, she said.
The Boys & Girls Club of Jefferson City, for example, offers lunches and snacks to neighborhood children.
The club has 135 children enrolled in summer camps. Each receives meals and snacks, club Executive Director Stephanie Johnson said.
"Any child may come over and grab a hot lunch to go," Johnson said. "They can come over and get an afternoon snack to go."
Also, if a child goes to the club for a lunch (at 11:30 a.m.), they will receive a snack to take home so they can avoid another trip.
The Boys & Girls Club is located at 1105 Lafayette St.
According to the DHSS website, lunches are available at:
Knowles YMCA, 424 Stadium Blvd.
East Elementary School, 1229 E. McCarty St.
Lewis and Clark Middle School, 325 Lewis and Clark Drive.
North Elementary School, 285 S. Summit Drive, Holts Summit.
Pioneer Trail Elementary School, 301 Pioneer Trail.
South Elementary School, 707 Linden Drive.
Thomas Jefferson Middle School, 1201 Fairgrounds Road.
The Jefferson City School District is offering breakfast and lunch to students ages 2-18 through June 30. The district is offering Grab 'N Go/drive-thru meals at various school locations or at bus stops. Grab 'n Go locations are listed above, while children in the Thorpe Gordon and West elementary schools areas can use bus stops in the meal delivery program. Bus drivers will deliver meals to stops across the district at designated times between 10 a.m.-1 p.m. Monday through Friday. Bus stops and times are listed here.
Grab 'N Go service is available 11:30 a.m.-1 p.m. Monday through Friday through June 30.