Most children look forward to summer break – no homework, no teachers, no worries – but for about 50,000 of them in the Treasure Coast, summer is the time they begin to worry. What will they have for lunch? Where will they get food?
That’s because they receive free or reduced-price lunches at their school during the school year. When school’s out, though, that lunch isn’t available.
“The St. Lucie West/Tradition area has been one of our focus areas,” said Homer Gutierrez, director of program services of the Treasure Coast Food Bank.
He’s working with a charter school in the area to be a potential host site for serving lunch to hungry kids.
A Haitian community center along Bayshore Boulevard, too, has been identified as a possible site.
The Treasure Coast Food Bank is again calling on community partners to step up and provide safe sites for children to grab lunch. The nonprofit is seeking 35 sites – an increase of about a dozen from last year.
It’s all in an attempt to reach as many children as possible; last year they served a mere 6 percent (3,000) of the eligible children.
“There are some barriers,” said Gutierrez, explaining that children sometimes lack transportation to meal sites. That’s why having even more sites would be beneficial; it would increase their chances of being able to get there for lunch.
Gutierrez is looking for central hubs within communities – camps, churches, organizations, libraries, community pools.
The Summer Meal Program begins on May 29 and runs daily during the week through Aug. 10. Lunch hours vary from site to site.
“It really doesn’t take much” to be a sponsor site, Gutierrez said. Potential sites must have a safe place for children to congregate and eat their lunches – and they need to have an adult on-hand to supervise the meals. Supervisors will receive training before the program launches at the their sites.
Sites must also be located within a certain radius of a school that has at least a 50 percent free/reduced-lunch-eligible population.
Aside from that, the Treasure Coast Food Bank handles the rest. The organization prepares and delivers the meals daily. The meals typically include fresh-made sandwiches and wraps, hand-made salads, and fresh cut fruits and veggies.
There is no out-of-pocket expense to the host sites, Gutierrez said.
Organizations that are even remotely interested in helping out are encouraged to sign up for a half-hour webinar that will be held at 3 p.m. on May 8. To register, go to www.stophunger.org/sfsp. The two-hour training will be held May 18 for new sites.
The program is supported in part through donations. Anyone wanting to support Treasure Coast Food Bank’s Summer Meals Program can make a donation through www.stophunger.org.