Here Comes the Sun! And Free Lunches for Area Students!

Suzanne Saggese explains the program as Toledo City Councilwoman Vanice Williams and Lucas County Commissioner wait to speak

By  Patrice Powers-Barker, OSU Extension, Lucas County
The Truth Contributor

School’s out and it’s time for Sun Meals, formerly known as the Summer Food Service Program. Suzanne Saggese, Program Specialist at OSU Extension, Lucas County and Convener of Summer Meal Partners Coalition shares, “Summer should be an exciting time for children to enjoy time with friends, engage in sports, or spend time at a pool. But for the nearly 60,000 children in Lucas County who receive free and reduced-price meals at school, summer can mean hunger. Just like learning should not end when school lets out, neither should a child’s need for good nutrition”

Throughout the state, all children ages one through 18 are eligible to receive free meals during the summer months at participating program sites. Individuals ages 19 through 21, following Individualized Education Programs (IEPs) through their current enrollment in educational programs also are eligible for free summer meals.

Depending on your location, you can find a site convenient to you. In the greater Toledo area, many sites such as libraries, community centers, schools, parks, houses of worship, etc, are served by Connecting Kids to Meals. Often, these sites will have a sign to indicate they are a Sun Meals partner. In urban locations, kids must eat the meal on-site. In some rural areas, families have the option to pick up to-go meals. For more information call 1-866-348-6479 (1-866-3-HUNGRY).

In addition, to help kids have access to nutritious food to grow healthy and strong, Ohio is offering the Summer Electronic Benefit Transfer Program for Children (Summer EBT or SUN Bucks). This benefit provides families $120 per eligible school-aged child, to help stretch the grocery budget and buy more of the foods that children love! Any family that had an approved free or reduced lunch application during the past school year is eligible to receive SUN Bucks. This is automatically added to an Ohio Direction EBT card for SNAP recipients. Benefits are distributed in increments of $40 through summer months (June, July, August) for food/groceries per child.

SUN Bucks is designed to work together with other benefits families may already get, like SNAP and WIC, and all children can still enjoy free SUN Meals at local meal sites, too. Many families will get SUN Bucks automatically if they are getting other benefits, but some families may need to apply for the program. For families who need to apply, please contact your local county job and family services agency

Adults, it’s summer!  What’s on your plate? Saggese recommends this bright and refreshing “Watermelon Summer Salad” recipe from Celebrate Your Plate (


For the Dressing

  • 2 tablespoons olive oil OR vegetable oil
  • 3 tablespoons lime juice (about 1.5 limes)
  • 1/4 teaspoon salt

For the Salad

  • 5 cups seedless watermelon (about 1 small melon), cubed
  • 1 medium cucumber, sliced into half moons
  • 1 cup red onion, thinly sliced
  • 1/3 cup crumbled feta cheese
  • 1/3 cup torn mint OR basil leaves
  • 1 pinch salt
  • 1/2 (jalapeño or serrano) pepper (optional)


  • Before you begin, wash your hands, surfaces, utensils, and produce.
  • Make the dressing: In a small bowl, whisk together the oil, lime juice, and salt.
  • Arrange the watermelon, cucumber, and red onions on a large plate or platter. Drizzle with half the dressing. Top with the feta, mint, and jalapeño pepper, if using, and drizzle with remaining dressing. Season to taste and serve.

Tips: Makes six, half cup servings. For a spicier option, add 1/2 jalapeno or serrano pepper, thinly sliced. To jazz it up, try adding fresh berries to the watermelon salad!

Two in-person opportunities for all families coming up SOON! Both of these events are free but we ask you to rsvp so we know how many to expect.

The Summer Meals Kickoff Event was Thursday June 6, 2024, 11:30 a.m. – 1:00 p.m. at Woodward High School. The theme this year was “Grow with Summer Meal Partners.” Summer menu items, and enjoy youth gardening, nature, and nutrition activities and enter to win a bike.

A number of vendors displayed their meal items as visitors were able to sample what kids will be enjoying during these summer months – from Memorial Day to August. “The meals are healthy, following USDA guidelines, low-fat dairy and whole grain selections,” said Suzanne Saggese, program specialist with the Ohio State University Extension.

TARTA CEO Laura Koprowski was also in attendance and she informed those on hand that youngsters who are in need of getting to the various sites will be able to do so during summer months at no charge on TARTA buses and through the TARTA Flex program. The pass is available in hard copy or via mobile phone.

“Transportation is never a barrier for our children,” said Koprowski.

Coming up next is “Summer Food and Summer Fun for Kids” educational program, Thursday, June 13, 3:00 – 5:00 p.m. at the new Glass City Enrichment Center, 815 Front Street (in front of Glass City MetroPark, across the street from Burger King). Please r.s.v.p. or call 419-574-0975. (There is a monthly lesson at this site on various topics. Save the July 11 date for “Basic Home Food Preservation: Deciding What’s Best for You – Canning, Drying, and Freezing Produce”