Why summer meals? For many children in low-income neighborhoods, the stability and nutrition offered by the lunch they get at school all but ends when school lets out for summer vacation.
According to California Food Policy Advocates’ 2012 School’s Out…Who Ate report, an estimated 84% of children in California receiving free/reduced-price lunches through the National School Lunch Program (NSLP) during the school year did not participate in one of the USDA’s summer feeding programs (Summer Food Service Program, National School Lunch Program/Seamless Summer Feeding Option). Many communities do not have enough summer meal providers, or have been forced to cut back existing summer meal programs due to cuts to summer school programs. In other communities, families simply don’t know about the program.
Summer Meal programs present an untapped opportunity to combat childhood hunger and obesity when school is out. We believe that all children should have access to good nutrition throughout the year. The California Summer Meal Coalition’s mission is:
- To encourage more school districts and community organizations to become summer meal providers.
- To support summer meal program managers with information and tools to help them operate a successful program.
- To assist summer meal program managers in building nutrition education and opportunities for physical activity into their programs.
Led by CCRWF, the Summer Meal Coalition partners with the Nutrition Services Division of the California Department of Education, the California Department of Public Health’s Network for a Healthy California, and summer meal leaders from across the state to help new summer meal providers get started and existing providers succeed. If you are unfamiliar with summer meal programs altogether, check out CCRWF’s nutrition primer to start. Then check out our webinars, our monthly newsletter and case studies and tools to learn how to develop a successful program in your community (or promote, support, or become a volunteer at a local summer meal site!).
Not able to become a summer meal provider? You’re in luck. There are plenty of other opportunities to support summer meal programs in your community. Become a volunteer. Talk to community leaders and ask for their help in making programs available…and getting the word out about them. Let families in your community know about local programs.
The opportunities are endless and the need is tremendous. Join our efforts to stop the summer nutrition gap.