Several community groups – including the Thurston County Food Bank, local governments, Together! and a few school districts – are operating meal programs to make sure children don’t go hungry this summer.
Free lunches – and in some cases breakfasts or snacks – are available for youths 18 and younger at more than a dozen sites in South Sound. The programs are in neighborhoods with high percentages of children who participate in the federal free- and reduced-price lunch program during the school year.
“Hunger doesn’t take a vacation just because you’re out of school for the summer,” said Kathy Owen, recreation supervisor with the City of Lacey.
Several of the programs are associated with day camps and summer playground programs, and most are supported by the U.S. Department of Agriculture’s Summer Food Service Program.
This summer, the City of Olympia is offering two feeding programs. It’s serving hot lunches, such as pizza, hamburgers and salad, at Garfield Elementary School, and sack lunches, such as sandwiches, chips, an apple and a bag of carrots, at Madison Elementary School, according to recreation program specialist Luke Burns.
Children don’t need to participate in a camp or program to receive a meal; they can simply show up and they’ll be served. There’s no proof of residency or income required. No questions will be asked, and even toddlers and preschoolers can receive meals.
But there are a couple of rules.
“Adults may not eat off their child’s plate,” Burns said. “And all food served needs to stay on site.”
Last year, the City of Lacey, in partnership with North Thurston Public Schools, served about 20,000 meals to kids during the summer.
“That’s an average of 510 a day,” Owen said.
Meantime, the Thurston County Food Bank is sponsoring lunch programs at two elementary schools and two community centers, which serve about 500 kids a day.
In addition, it’s delivering about 300 lunches a day to several trailer parks and neighborhoods around South Sound that didn’t qualify for a federally funded program but still have great need for help, according to Cheryl Falkenburg with the Food Bank.
The mobile feeding program is entirely funded with community donations and the Food Bank, she said.
“It’s hard for kids to get to places, so we thought this would be a good way to serve the kids in those communities,” Falkenburg added.