NEW YORK (CBSNewYork) -- The city is kicking off its Summer Meals program, but this year it's not just for students. It's for everyone.
Schools Chancellor Meisha Ross Porter helped serve lunch to students at Public School 20 Anna Silver on Essex Street on Thursday.
"We made it a priority to make sure that no child and no family was hungry throughout this time," she told CBS2's Natalie Duddridge.
Throughout the school year, students get breakfasts and lunches for free. The Summer Meals program makes sure they still get fed.
"My mom had surgery before and it was hard for her to cook and do a lot of other things. And then when she found out for the school she put me in there and it started helping her even more," a fourth grader named Chloe said.
"My favorite things to eat is the cereal and the chicken nugget," second grader Marianne said, adding the food at school is "even better" than the food at home.
Officials realized it wasn't just students that needed help. So did parents, so they expanded the program to all New Yorkers.
"Pre-pandemic, there were about 1.1 million New Yorkers who experienced food insecurity. Quite simply, that's not always knowing where your next meal is going to come from. Height of pandemic, we knew there was about 1.6 million, about a half a million person increase," said Kate MacKenzie, executive director of the city's Office of Food Policy.
On average, the Summer Meals program handed out a few thousand meals a day. This past year that number rose to 500,000 meals a day. Since March, officials have handed out 130 million meals, prompting the city to invest the most money ever in emergency food programs, increasing its budget to $50 million, up from $30 million.
Any New Yorker -- not just students -- can come pick up a box of food. No registration or identification is required.
Monday to Friday, there are 400 grab-and-go sites open from 9 a.m. to 1 p.m. in all five boroughs. All you have to do is text "NYC Food" to 877-877 and you'll get a text back asking for your zip code, which will give you the nearest food site to you.
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