Through a returning partnership with the California Summer Meals Coalition, several San Diego County school districts and city library branches are serving free healthy lunches during the summer for children 18 years old and under.
During the 2016-2017 academic year, over 10,000 students K-12 in San Diego County met the eligibility criteria for free meals based on household income, homelessness, foster placement and more, according to data by the California Department of Education.
For many students who fall into those categories, school lunches are essential to maintain proper nutrition, but when school is not in session, some no longer have those resources.
To help address the nutritional needs of families during the summer break, several locations are offering free lunches to students 18 years of age and younger, with no enrollment process.
The Chula Vista Elementary School District is offering free lunches during the month of June between 12:00 p.m. and 1:00 p.m., at two locations; the Chula Vista Main Public Library at 365 F Street, and the South Public Library at 389 Orange Avenue. Rogers Elementary School at 510 East Naples will serve breakfast between 7:00 a.m. and 7:30 a.m., and breakfast from 10:30 a.m. and 11:30 a.m. through June 30th.
The Sweetwater Union High School District joined this effort last year by sponsoring the Seamless Summer Feeding Program. This year the District will offer the program again at 13 of their school campuses, including Chula Vista Middle, Montgomery High, Hilltop Middle, and San Ysidro High. Lunch will be served between 10:45 a.m. and 11:15 a.m., from June 5 to July 7, with no meals on July 4 during the national holiday.
County libraries are also offering free lunches at the Borrego Springs Library, Casa de Oro Library, Chula Vista Library, El Cajon Library, Jacumba Library, Julian Library, Lincoln Acres Library, Ramona Library, Spring Valley Library, Valley Center Library, Vista Library, among others.
The Oceanside Unified School District received a $20,000 grant from the National League of Cities to address student hunger during the summer, and is offering free meals at 16 locations throughout the Oceanside area, including the Abby Reinke Youth Center, the City of Oceanside Library, Oceanside and El Camino High Schools, and all of their elementary schools. Meals for adults are also available for a $4.00 fee.
Summer vacation can create an additional burden for working families that depend on school lunches to maintain healthy eating options for their children. For too many students, the summer break leads to food insecurity, childhood obesity, and a widening academic achievement gap.
A 2012 report from the National Summer Learning Association outlined the relationship between student health and learning.
The report found that food insecurity increases during the summer break without access to the nutrition provided by school lunch programs, that school-aged children may gain weight two to three times faster during the summer than during the school year, and that low-income kids may fall further behind in academics during the summer break, compared to higher-income children.
Researchers report that proper nutrition promotes brain development and improves cognitive functioning, and inadequate nutrition is associated with physical and mental health issues, emotional and behavioral problems, learning deficiencies, lower grades, and repeating a grade in school.
To find the nearest location offering free meals in San Diego County, parents can text “food” to 877-877 or call 2-1-1 for more information.