Public schools have long provided free or reduced price lunch (and in some cases breakfast) programs for students in need. While not a perfect system, these meals make a big difference in making sure all students have access to enough food during the school day. That’s great for the 9 months a year when class is in – but what about the summer? Now, public libraries across the country have started to fill in the gap during the warmer months, providing well-rounded meals to kids that come from low-income families.
Recently, the Huffington Post published an inspiring story highlighting 5 of these lunch libraries. Check out the excerpt below, and read the whole story on the Huffington Post’s website.
Eat Up! 5 Public Libraries’ Successful Summer Lunch Programs
By: Jordan Lloyd Bookey
Last summer, Nina Lindsay was walking through the Oakland Public Library (OPL) where she works when she saw what she describes as “the best kind of trash.” On the floor was a peach pit sucked bone dry. It had been served for lunch earlier that day, and for Nina the image of that pit serves as a reminder of the importance of the library’s summer meals program.
This is not just happening in Oakland. Libraries around the country are starting similar initiatives. During the school year, 22 million kids receive a free or reduced price lunch at school according to Lucy Melcher, the Associate Director of Advocacy for Share Our Strength; but during the summer months, those numbers drop dramatically. Only 1 in 6 of those kids gets that meal when school is out. These programs are designed to change that.
“The biggest challenge we hear from organizations operating the summer meals program is that it doesn’t provide enough options to reach kids in hard to reach areas,” Lucy told me. Libraries can reach eligible children who are not getting their summer meals. “Libraries were a hidden gem. They are a natural place in the community where kids are already congregating during the summer. They have great spaces to provide meals in a fun environment for kids. Libraries are also trusted places in their communities and have the ability to do outreach through schools and other community organizations about the summer meals program.”
Hearing about these amazing programs got me excited and I wanted to hear more. So I spoke with five public libraries about their summer meal sites. It was inspiring to learn what they were doing, how these programs were growing–and especially to hear the feedback from children and families who have benefited. Here are a few of the things they told me: