Programs help fill hunger gap when school is not in session.

Many Central Ohio parks, playgrounds and schools are now offering free lunches to children during the summer months. In most cases, children do not need to be registered, or even school-age, to participate.

The Ohio Department of Education maintains information online about the state’s Summer Food Service program at education.ohio.gov/topics/other-resources/food-and-nutrition/summer-food-service-program. All children ages 1-18 are eligible to receive free meals at participating sites. Some individuals may be eligible through age 21. To find a location, call 866-348-6479 or search the online map at the link above.

Families also can get information about summer food programs through the Columbus Recreation and Parks Department. Families in need can text “Food” to 877877 to find nearby summer feeding sites. Again, ages 1-18, and up through 21 in some circumstances, are eligible. For more information, go to columbus.gov/recreationandparks/programs/free-meal-programs.

The rec and parks program is part of the larger “Go, Lunch!” initiative, which extends beyond the city’s community centers and involves partner agencies such as Children’s Hunger Alliance, St. Vincent Family Center and Ohio State University. The program offers free meals at more than 220 sites including churches, Columbus Metropolitan Library branches and pilot programs in five Columbus City Schools buildings: Beatty Park/Trevitt, East Columbus, Livingston, Wedgewood and Weinland Park elementary schools. In addition to a meal, these five sites offer recreation programs from 10 a.m. to 2 p.m. daily through Aug. 10 (except July 4). For more information and to find participating locations, go to golunch.club.