How to Get Free Food

Posted on Nov 11 2015 - 1:48am by admin

It’s estimated that around 1 in 5 kids in America are not getting the amount of food they need and are going hungry.  It’s proven that kids who eat a balanced and nutritious diet on a regular basis will miss less school, get better grades and are more likely to graduate.

No money for healthy meals for your kids?  You’re not alone as you can see here. But on a plus side, there are plenty of organizations and federal programs that are available to you.  You don’t need to pack them off to school with just another bag of potato chips to get them through the day as there are number of options to get free, healthy food.

We’ve pulled together a number of federal and local organizations where you can get free or subsidized food and meals for kids and families on a low income.  We all know that kids who eat a balanced and nutritious diet are healthier, happier and flourish more than kids on a poor diet.  And you, yourself, need to keep up your strength and stay healthy.

Programs to Get Free Food in the US for the Needy

The United States Department of Agriculture runs a number of food assistance programs, as well as an emergency service for instant help.  Be prepared that you’ll most likely need to go through a whole bunch of questions to assess what level of assistance you qualify for.  But persevere; there are a good number of programs to help you and your family.

1. Why Hunger – Emergency Food Help

The Why Hunger refers people in need across the US  to food pantries, soup kitchens, summer meals sites, government nutrition programs and other organizations that provide access to nutritious foods and nutritional support services.

If you need it, don’t be too proud to use it.  This service is there to help you. They can help you find free food in your neighborhood.

Call 1212-629-8850  (1-800-5-HUNGRY)

Lines open Monday to Friday, 9:00 a.m. to 5:00 p.m., and Saturdays 10:00 a.m. to 2:00 p.m., Eastern Time.

For out of hours help visit http://www.whyhunger.org/contact-us

2. WIC Program for Women, Infants, and Children

Use this program if:

  • You have a low income and recently had a baby
  • You are pregnant
  • You are breastfeeding
  • You have kids up to 5 years of age

WIC provides a voucher or coupon that you can use to buy food. You can also learn about healthy eating, get support to help you breastfeed your baby, and find out about healthcare and other services.

Read our guide on how to apply for the WIC.

3. WIC FMNP (Farmers’ Market Nutrition Program) Limited to Some States Only

If you receive WIC, or are on the WIC wait list, you can use these vouchers to shop at farmers’ markets or roadside produce stands. You can buy fresh fruits, vegetables, and herbs.   Not all states run the program so check if it’s available in your area. Find out more at http://www.fns.usda.gov/wic/Contacts/farm.HTM

4. CSFP (Commodity Supplemental Food Program)

Some States offer CSFP where you can get a food package to take home once a month.

Pregnant women, mothers of babies, and families with children up to age 6 who have a low income can apply.  But you must live in an area that offers CSFP.

NOTE: You may not apply if you are on WIC but you may apply if you are on SNAP.

Call 1-866-348-6479 to find your State CSFP contact or find out if you’re eligible at http://www.fns.usda.gov/fdd/contacts/sdacontacts.htm

Read our guide on how to apply for SNAP.

5. Free School Meals for Children from Kindergarten to 12th Grade

School meals programs you may be able to qualify for include:

6. National School Lunch Program

Did you know The National School Lunch Program was established under the National School Lunch Act, signed by President Harry Truman in 1946? This federally assisted meal program provides nutritionally balanced, low-cost or free lunches to children each school day.

Any child at a participating school may purchase a meal through the National School Lunch Program.

Where the family income is on or below 130 percent of the poverty level: Child is eligible for free meals.

Where the family income is between 130 percent and 185 percent of the poverty level: Child is eligible for reduced‐price meals, for which students can be charged no more than 40 cents.

Where the family income is over 185 percent of poverty: Child pays full price although their meals may still subsidized to some extent.

Snacks after school are given out to children as well with the same criteria which is used to determine eligibility for school meals. Exceptions are made, however, in areas where fifty percent of the students meet the eligibility requirements — if this is the case, all after school snacks are given for free, regardless of eligibility of the student.

Find out more, or apply at http://www.fns.usda.gov/office-type/child-nutrition-programs or call the Communication Division at 703‐305‐2281

Read our guide on how to apply to the National School Lunch Program.

7. School Breakfast Program

Make sure your child gets a nutritious start to the day. The School Breakfast Program (SBP) works in a similar way to the National School Lunch Program, and provides cash assistance to states to operate not-for-profit breakfast programs in schools and residential childcare institutions.

The criteria, also, will be similar to the NSLP for children attending schools that participate in the program.

Find out more, or apply at http://www.fns.usda.gov/office-type/child-nutrition-programs or call the Communication Division at 703‐305‐2281

8. Fresh Fruit and Vegetable Program

Despite the numbers of Americans living in poverty, you’re most likely aware of the obesity problem our country faces. This program focuses on childhood obesity and is an important aid to help families combat this by introducing school children to a variety of produce that they otherwise might not have the opportunity to sample. The goal of the FFVP is to improve children’s overall diet and create healthier eating habits to impact their present and future health and to provide healthier snacks in schools.

Find out more, and check your school’s and child’s eligibility  at http://www.fns.usda.gov/office-type/child-nutrition-programs or call the Communication Division at 703‐305‐2281

You can apply for any of the above school programs if your kids are between grade school through high school.  If you get help from SNAP, your children will get free or lower price school breakfasts and lunches anyhow.  But you may still qualify for additional schemes, so you’ve nothing to lose by contacting them.

Find out more at http://www.fns.usda.gov/cnd or ask someone at your school office for information.

9. Feeding America

Feeding America provides food and support to more than 12 million children each year across America, through providing a nationwide network of food banks.  They run various programs for kids to ensure they have nutritious food after school, at the weekend, and during the school holidays.   They run programs such as:

  • BackPack Program
  • Kids Cafe
  • School Pantry Program
  • Child Hunger Corps

And they don’t just help kids.  They provide food banks that serve people of all ages in our communities.

Find out more at http://www.feedingamerica.org/find-your-local-foodbank/ and see where your nearest center or program operates.

10. Ample Harvest

Ample Harvest is an independent program where local gardeners donate surplus food that they’ve grown in their back yard, which they can’t consume themselves.  This surplus of grown produce is used to stock shelves of empty pantries.

AmpleHarvest.org operates a free nationwide registry that enables home gardeners and commercial growers with excess food donations to easily find food pantries, food banks and other hunger organizations in their area that need filling.

Non-gardening charitable folk also can make small monetary donations if they have no produce to donate.

Check to see if there Ample Harvest runs in your area and register your empty pantry so that gardeners know it needs to be filled.

Find out more at  http://www.ampleharvest.org/index.php

How to Save Money on Food

1. Utilize Grocery Coupons

By doing a bit of planning a head, you can save a lot on food costs  by using coupons to get discounts.  Both store coupons and online coupons are widely available so always keep a look out and grab them whenever you spot them.  Then just do the matching up your coupons with the sale items in the stores and you can save dollars on your grocery bills.

  • Now this takes some planning and time, but be prepared to put n a bit more effort in your shopping by frequently  looking for and collecting any coupons you find, filling them out, and sending in any applications for offers on time, etc, and you can save up a huge percentage on your grocery bills.
  • It’s another real boring job, but just spend a little time sorting through all the store flyers and coupons you’ve collected. Match up your coupons with the sale items on the store flyers and make a list of what you want and where to get it and plan your grocery trips to minimize on gas or bus tickets.  Then, stay focused when you shop for groceries and make use of your coupons, and you can save a lot of dollars.
  • Ironically, by buying national brands, you can actually save a lot more money with coupons because small store items don’t usually have sales which means you can’t use coupons. Buy store own brands when you need to, when no coupon is available for the national brand items as they are generally cheaper when comparing items at full price.
  • Here’s where brand loyalty has to by the wayside. Often times, your coupons may be valid for brands you wouldn’t usually buy.  But you need to be prepared to try different, or new, brands so that you can take the maximum benefit of coupons.
  • It goes without saying that using the Internet as your resource for finding coupons is one of the best ways to make savings. You can use SmartSource.com and CouponQueen.com to help you find coupons on a vareity of items. Sometimes, these site even run competitions where you can actually win free food items if you enter. So it’s worth monitoring these sites and seeing what sort of promotions or competitions they have.

2. Buy One and Get One Free – Less Food Waste

If you do have some bucks for your groceries, look out for offers where you buy one and get another one free.

It can work out that you effectively are getting free food.  Stock up on tinned food and non-perishables.  Buy cautiously on fresh items like meat, dairy and farm produce that will go bad  in a couple of days.

It’s very tempting to buy up in bulk when you see offers of buy one and get another free.  Sounds like a great gig, right?  But wait.  Always check the use by date on items.  Stores may be offering this deal to dispose of some groceries they have over-ordered and items may have a very short fridge or shelf life.

You can end up wasting food if you don’t get to use it by the time it perishes.  Now that works out a very expensive deal and not a freebie at all.

Don’t be tempted to ignore the use by date, especially with meat and dairy.  It’s just not worth risking your kids’, or your, health.    You could end up with a medical bill to go with your bargain grocery shopping.

As well as the many organisations and programs available to you at a national level, help may be closer to home in your local community.  Family, friends, the church and charitable organisations in your neighbourhood are there to help and support you.