With the final school bell ringing, children all over our state are celebrating the beginning of summer -– a time of warmer temperatures and freedom from homework.
For the more than 83,000 Idaho kids who are what officials term “food-insecure,” however, they’re beginning a time of hunger and uncertainty. Students who rely on free or reduced-price school meals can experience increased need during the summer. Luckily, organizations are stepping up to keep them fed during the summer months.
On Monday, The Idaho Foodbank was joined by representatives from the City of Boise, Idaho State Department of Education, CNCS – AmeriCorps VISTA, United States Department of Agriculture, Boise Parks and Recreation, Boise School District and Idaho Commission for Libraries in launching Picnic in the Park 2016.
“Monday through Friday, from June 6th to August 12th, Picnic in the Park will provide nearly 52,000 free meals to food-insecure children, one to 18 years of age ,living in the Boise metro area. The program goes hand-in-hand with efforts by charitable organizations around the state which provide meals for children who are in need,” said Idaho Food Bank spokesman Mike Sharp.
The Foodbank and partners also celebrated a proclamation by Idaho Governor “Butch”Otter, which designated June 6th as Summer Food Service Program Awareness Day.
“Hunger doesn’t take a vacation once school ends,” said Summer Food Service Program Coordinator Angela Kraft. “What we are really talking about are families that simply don’t have the resources to provide three nutritious meals a day for their children. The SFSP program supports those students during the summer months in an effort to provide those three healthy meals a day.”
The Idaho Foodbank is operating 25 sites in the Boise area this year, offering free meals in addition to physical activities, reading opportunities and games.
People interested in participating in Picnic in the Park can text “food” to 877-877 to find the nearest location. Spanish speakers can text “comida” to the same number for information in Spanish. Parents can also get a meal at the site for a low cost.
“Summer should not have to be dreaded or feared by children because of hunger,” said Karen Vauk, President and CEO of The Idaho Foodbank. “This program and these great organizations are ensuring as many children as possible can enjoy their summer without the burden of worrying whether they will have food for a nutritious lunch.”