Special Blog Post By: Cindy McCown, Second Harvest Food Bank Vice President of Community Engagement and Policy

Summer is here and that means thousands of kids in Santa Clara and San Mateo counties won’t have access to the free and reduced-priced meals they rely on during the regular school year. Making sure their kids have enough healthy food to eat during the summer can be difficult for families already struggling to put food on the table. Second Harvest Food Bank is working to connect families to the nutritious food they need to thrive this summer. According to the Food Research Action Center’s Hunger Doesn’t Take a Vacation:  Summer Nutrition Status Report, the lack of nutrition and summer enrichment programs can result in negative health and development outcomes for children, including weight gain and a “summer slide” in learning. To address this, there are a number of resources available, including Second Harvest programs and more than 120 federally funded summer feeding sites where kids can get free meals.

You might ask yourself …How is this possible in such a wealthy area?  According to the California Food Policy Advocates, during the school year approximately 70% of low-income students participate in the school lunch program.  During the summer months, only about 20% participate in the summer meal program .  That’s why Second Harvest works closely with a wide range of community based organizations to create a network of summer feeding sites where kids can get a free meal and also connect families to the nutritious food they need to feed their kids this summer – that could be a bag of groceries from Second Harvest or a free meal through the federal Summer Food Service Program.

There are more than 80 sites in Santa Clara County and nearly 40 sites in San Mateo County where free meals are made available to any child who is 18 years old or younger through the federal Summer Food Service Program and the National School Lunch Program.  Some of the sites offer free breakfast, lunch, and an afternoon snack.  Second Harvest is working with a number of partners to offer meal sites where parents can eat with their kids, including YMCA Silicon Valley, San Mateo County Libraries – Big Lift Inspiring Summer Program, City of San Jose Public Libraries, Stanford Pediatric Advocacy Program, Ravenswood School District, and the California Summer Meals Coalition. These sites include selected schools and libraries in Atherton, East Palo Alto, Menlo Park, Redwood City, and San Jose. The kids’ meals are paid for through the federal Summer Food Service Program and the adult meals are covered by Second Harvest.

The federal Summer Food Service Program and the National School Lunch Program are two of many children’s nutrition programs funded through the Child Nutrition Reauthorization legislation.  Currently, our federal elected officials are reviewing proposals that will impact these programs for the next five years.  This summer, we will have elected officials visit sites to see first-hand how important these programs are to hungry children and their families.   The reauthorization is an opportunity for them to protect and make new investments to strengthen many children’s nutrition programs.   Let your elected representatives know how you feel about children’s nutrition programs!

For summer feeding sites and groceries, families can contact our Food Connection Hotline.

For information on summer feeding activities, contact Cindy McCown, VP of Community Engagement and Policy, at cmccown@shfb.org or 408-694-0018.