Tuesday, June 3, 2014

Lunch @ The Library - California Library Association

Lunch @ the Library: Program Information

The California Summer Meal Coalition (CSMC) and California Library Association (CLA) are working with libraries and meal providers across California to offer summer lunch programs that are designed to provide nourishment and summer enrichment for children and teens. All library meal sites provide free summer lunches and engage families with library programs and services. Some libraries are extending the impact of their lunch programs by providing arts, literacy, and STEM programming for participating children and teens.

Library summer meal sites in California
The need for free summer meals
Summer vacation presents a different reality for many impoverished children in California. In addition to limited access to summer learning and enrichment programs, many low-income children struggle to have basic needs met, with reduced access to healthy food and safe places to congregate. The intersections between summer health and summer learning and enrichment are great, suggesting that a holistic view of the summer landscape is crucial to understanding existing challenges and opportunities to creating a summer experience in which all children are healthy, active, and engaged.

A 2012 report from the National Summer Learning Association highlights the links between food insecurity, childhood obesity, and the achievement gap:4
•Food insecurity increases during the summer break without access to the nutrition provided by the National School Lunch Program.
•Children may gain weight two to three times faster during the summer than during the school year.
•Low-income youth may fall further behind in academic skills—particularly reading—during the summer break, experiencing greater “summer learning loss” than their higher-income peers and widening the achievement gap.
•Nutrition education interventions that exclusively target the school environment may be less impactful because weight gain happens primarily outside of school.
•Adequate nutrition promotes brain development and improves cognitive functioning, whereas inadequate nutrition is associated with physical and mental health issues, emotional and behavioral problems, learning deficiencies, lower grades, and repeating a grade.

Children who are well-nourished are likely to have cognitive advantages over children with deficits in this area, and reducing health disparities among lower and higher socioeconomic children can help close the achievement gap.5

Visit the California Department of Education’s searchable online map here for more sites. Summer meal sites will offer free lunch and snacks to youth under age 18 from June 2 through August 8.

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