Children living in low-income neighborhoods in the Sacramento region can receive free meals at more than 100 sites this summer.
The meal programs mostly offer lunch, but sometimes serve snacks, breakfast and dinner. Almost all of the sites are sponsored by school districts and accompany summer school programs, although a handful are offered by nonprofits like the YMCA.
Sacramento City Unified School District has committed to 56 sites this summer and continues to add more as the district expands summer enrichment programs or as community partners sign up, said district spokesman Gabe Ross.
The district is serving breakfast and lunch at all of its sites beginning June 22. Breakfast that day includes whole grain cereal, a fruit cup and orange juice, while lunch consists of a turkey and cheese sandwich, strawberry applesauce, baby carrots and whole grain corn chips, according to a menu posted online.
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According to state data, 64 percent of Sacramento City Unified students qualify for a free or reduced price lunch based on household income.
“We recognize that during the school year, a significant amount of our student population relies on the meal they get at school, sometimes the only meal they get and certainly often the best meal they eat,” Ross said. “When not at school, we want to make sure they are healthy and they are eating.”
The district will again serve lunch at three community pools and a handful of community centers, as well as at schools with summer enrichment programs.
The success of last year’s inaugural pool meal program was grounds for continuing it again this summer, Ross said. The meal offerings at Clunie Community Pool, McClatchy Park Pool and Southside Community Pool began as an effort to reach more children.
In Sacramento County, children can eat at any of 147 sites – down from 169 last year. That drop is largely attributed to two site sponsors ending their participation this year: Bread of Life Deliverance Ministries and the Boys & Girls Clubs of Greater Sacramento. Bread of Life offered meals at 18 sites, while the Boys & Girls Clubs sponsored meals at two sites last summer, according to information from the California Department of Education.
This year, Sacramento City Unified will serve meals at the Boys & Girls Clubs location at 5212 Lemon Hill Ave.
The sites are all part of the Summer Food Service Program of the U.S. Department of Agriculture. A site is eligible if it serves an area where at least half of children live in households with income at 185 percent of the federal poverty level or below, equal to $44,863 for a family of four. Families will not be asked to verify income.
This summer, the program is expected to serve more than 200 million free meals nationwide, according to information from the USDA.
The lunch programs, paid for with federal dollars, begin 15 days after the school year ends or when year-round schools are on break, according to CDE officials.
“Only one in five low-income children who eat subsidized meals during the school year are taking advantage of the summer meal program, meaning a lot of kids are unnecessarily going hungry this summer,” state schools chief Tom Torlakson said in a statement.
For more information about Summer Meal Service Sites in California, go to http://www.cde.ca.gov/ds/sh/sn/summersites15.asp or call (800) 952-5609, option 3.