Summer Meals Make Sure Healthy Eating Doesn't Take a Vacation


Summer Meals Make Sure Healthy Eating Doesn't Take a Vacation

08, July 2016 9:42 AM

Tammy Anderson-Wise, Dairy Council of CA CEO enjoys a summer mealAcross California and the country, schools, community centers, libraries, parks, churches, even apartment complexes are serving free meals for all children ages 1-18 with no paperwork or documentation required. Here, USDA’s Summer Food Service Program is coordinated by the California Department of Education and promoted by a wide range of organizations like United Way and Dairy Council of California (CA). 

Finding a local summer meals site is as simple as texting "Food" or "Comida" for Spanish to 877-877, dialing 2-1-1 in most cities or visiting Summer Food Rocks.

(Above, Tammy Anderson-Wise, CEO of Dairy Council of CA enjoys a summer meal with community members at the Sacramento kickoff event.)

Why is the summer meal program so important? 

Children shouldn't go hungry just because school is out. According to the Food Research and Action Center report, over 80 percent of the 2.4 million California children who participated in the National School Lunch Program during the 2014-2015 school year missed out on the free healthy food provided by USDA's free Summer Food Service Program. 

Nationally, only one out of six children who receive free or reduced-price meals during the school year continue to receive meals during the summer months. Missing out on balanced meals over the summer can put children's health and academic achievement in jeopardy.

Summer Lunchbox Image

What kinds of food are served in the summer meal program?

All summer meals served through the Summer Food Service Program must meet USDA nutritional guidelines and include all of the following:

  • 1 serving of milk
  • 2 servings of fruits and/or vegetables
  • 1 serving of grains
  • 1 serving of protein

How has Dairy Council of CA helped promote summer meals? 

Because summer meals are an underutilized resource to help keep children healthy in California, Dairy Council of CA teamed up with United Way, USDA, CDE, school districts and community groups to raise awareness for summer meals statewide. Through involvement with the Sacramento Summer Meals Collaborative, we helped develop the Sacramento Summer Lunchbox, an online resource kit filled with promotional and educational resources for summer meal sites that can be used across the state. 

Sandip Kaur and Jose Alvarado promote summer meals in Fresno

"Students need to eat nutritious food all year round to succeed in school. During the summer, some children may have their access to food curtailed. That’s why I am so pleased that the Sacramento Summer Meals Collaborative is providing summer meals sponsors with help in managing their programs and in getting word out about these free summer meals,” said State Superintendent of Public Instruction Tom Torlakson in a partnership news release about the Collaborative's work.

Additionally, Dairy Council of CA joined San Diego, Fresno and Twin Rivers Unified School District Food Service Departments to coordinate community kickoff events to raise awareness for these free summer meals. Special thanks go out to these departments and districts, as well as the CDE, USDA, CDFA and United Way staff who helped make them so memorable to all children and parents who participated. 

While these kickoffs were great successes, the number of children accessing summer meals tends to drop off after the Fourth of July holiday. Dairy Council of CA is also planning a mid-summer SPIKE event with Natomas Unified School District later this month. 

(Above, Sandip Kaur, Director of the Nutrition Services Division of the California Department of Education and Fresno Unified School District Food Service Director Jose Alvarado pose in front of Mobile Dairy Classroom during the Fresno summer meal kickoff event.)

How are you promoting summer meals in your community?

Share your story in the comments section or on our Facebook page

Tags: balanced meals healthy eating for kids

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