Summer Results for Real Food for Real Children

Summer means food, friends, and fun for many children. Unfortunately for others, summer vacation is the hungriest time of the year. Families who depend on school meals during the school year struggle to provide food for their children once school is out for the summer.  In San Luis Obispo County 16,000 children receive free or reduced price school meals during the school year but may spend the summer worried about how to get enough to eat.

untitledThrough the federal Summer Food Service Program, called Lovin’ Lunchbox in San Luis Obispo County, the Food Bank helps keep low-income children healthy by providing them with the nutrition they need to learn, play, and grow throughout the summer months.

Summer 2014 marks the fifth year that the Food Bank has sponsored the SFSP in San Luis Obispo County.  With the help of partner agencies and volunteers, this summer we served over 33,000 meals (lunches, breakfasts, and snacks) countywide at 28 locations.  That is nearly 10,000 more meals than were served through this program last summer and more than 20,000 meals served in 2012 before must! charities came on board. The program went from serving 484 children during the summer of 2012 to 1447 children in 2014!

In North County alone (Atascadero, Paso Robles, Cambria, San Miguel, Shandon, and Templeton) more than 16,000 meals were served at 16 different locations.

The incredible growth of this program has, in large part, been due to the 2013 Real Children, Real Food  grant from must! to support staff positions and infrastructure in North County.  With help from must! the Food Bank reached more children than ever this summer.

From Wendy Lewis, COO at the Food Bank Coalition of San Luis Obispo County:
“As we have seen this year through our partnership with must! Charities, by coming together as a community and combining our time, resources, and energy, programs like Lovin’ Lunchbox can make a significant impact on the health and well-being of children in San Luis Obispo County.”

From Yvette Madrigal, Children’s Program Coordinator at Acorns (youth program) at Oak Park Housing Authority, Paso Robles:
“I started working at Acorns this summer.  I was pleasantly surprised to find out that free lunches were offered over the summer to students and families.  Not just a free lunch but a beautiful nutritious lunch such as sandwiches, wraps, veggies, fresh fruit and other healthy snacks.”

“It’s so important for a growing child to have that balanced meal daily for their physical and emotional growth.  I liked all the lessons I observed that were being taught at Acorns regarding snacks and lunches.  The washing of hands, the manners of saying please and thank you and donating what was not eaten to a “share table,” the communication that happened when families would sit at a table to eat together.  The cleaning up after lunch and again the communication that followed is so beneficial to the families.”
“What is really beneficial at Acorns is once a child is given a healthy lunch or snack they are able to focus better.  We do not have as many behavior problems – I see what type of snacks these kids have on their own and its sugar like marshmallows – hot Cheetos and soda.   Most kids come into the Acorns program hungry.  It’s so comforting to know we can provide one nutritious meal to a growing child so they may grow physically and emotionally/mentally with the meal, socialization, activities and homework help we provide.  We can’t do this alone so I am so thankful for the community of people that all contribute to help these children.  The kids look forward to it and they really appreciate it, for me it’s a joy to watch and a blessing to help those in need.”

About the Food Bank:
The Food Bank Coalition of San Luis Obispo County is the only countywide source of nutritious food for people in need.  Working hand in hand with volunteers, donors, corporate sponsors and non-profit agency partners, it’s our mission to work with a network of community partners to alleviate hunger in San Luis Obispo County and build a healthier community. 1 in 6 people in SLO County are food insecure, often not knowing how they will get their next meal.