Here’s What Libraries Are Doing to Combat Child Hunger When School’s Out

A child eats a free sandwich at Northside Boys and Girls Club Monday, June 5, 2017 in St.Petersburg, Fla.
A child eats a free sandwich at Northside Boys and Girls Club Monday, June 5, 2017 in St.Petersburg, Fla. The free lunch is provided to low-income children by the USDA Summer Food Service Program. Tina Russell/The Penny Hoarder

For most kids, summer is a blast. Freedom, no homework, sleepovers and sleeping in. 

But hunger doesn’t take a summer vacation, and according to a report by Feeding America, more than 13 million kids and teens live in households that can’t consistently provide nutritious meals.

In the dog days of summer, schools can’t be the ones to help provide every kid regular lunches — and only 1 in 6 students who qualified for reduced lunch programs in the 2014-15 school year also received free lunches in the summer.

So libraries have stepped in to help.

With support from the U.S. Department of Agriculture’s Summer Food Service Program, libraries across the country are providing free lunches for students 18 and younger. No library card required.

“Libraries see that kids in their communities are hungry,” California State Library programs consultant Natalie Cole said in an interview with The New York Times. “We are not only providing meals. We are providing learning opportunities and keeping kids reading all summer long.”

How to Find Your Local Lunch at the Library Program

Although summer is nearing its end, there are still plenty of libraries participating in the Lunch at the Library program.

The USDA has a handy map to help you find the closest site serving free summer lunches. Just click on the “Find Sites” button and enter your address, or even just your city, to find the nearest location.

And the best part is that the USDA’s program isn’t limited to just libraries (though for us bookish folks, there’s nothing like eating with a good book). Around The Penny Hoarder headquarters in St. Petersburg, Florida, recreation centers, parks and schools are all participating.

Other organizations are helping out, as well. The YMCA’s Summer Food Program will serve 7.2 million meals and snacks by the time this summer comes to a close.

But what better way to fill the summer gap with a few hours around books?

“We have a lot of kids who come here and spend all day in the library in the summer,” said St. Petersburg Library Youth Services Coordinator Paula Alexis. “So they come in, and there’s a hot meal for them.”

Alex Mahadevan is a data journalist at The Penny Hoarder.

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