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Free Summer Food & Fun at Broward County Library

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Free Summer Food & Fun at Broward County Library

Broward County Library, Fla.

Health & Wellness | 2014

Innovation Synopsis

Broward County Libraries, in conjunction with Sisters for Abundant Living, provided free lunch and snacks for children Summer 2013 as part of the Library’s Summer Reading Program. A partnership with the Florida Department of Agriculture and Consumer Services’ Summer BreakSpot program brought free food to the community’s underserved children.


According to a 2012 report from the U.S. Census, in Broward County in 2011, 79,000 children lived in poverty. In Broward County, 70.2% of children received free/reduced lunch. During summer months, these children were served educationally, recreationally and culturally by the Library’s Summer Reading Program, which provided free events, programs and enrichment for youth. But those same children also need nutritional meals and snacks during the summer. It was determined that participation in the Summer Food Program would provide meals and snacks at a place where the children already gathered – the library. By adding a basic necessity – food – Broward County Library would be able to create a safe atmosphere where children can have access to a balanced nutritious meal every day. Children would be not only nurturing their minds and creativity by participating in the Summer Reading Program, but also nurturing a healthy body. The Summer Food Program is an innovative method of fulfilling the myriad needs of Broward County’s underserved youth.

Key Elements of Innovation

With thousands of children participating each year in the Library’s Summer Reading Program, the Library was approached in Spring 2013 by nonprofit organization Sisters for Abundant Living, sponsors of the free food program, to participate. Free Summer Food is funded by the Florida Department of Agriculture and is an extension of the National School Lunch Program. With so many children and families struggling below poverty level, it was essential that the Library fill a gap in an essential service: the feeding of the community’s children. Library locations were chosen based on community need, and it was determined that in the first year, eight Library locations would participate. All locations selected were either in/adjacent to underserved communities with a higher than average poverty rate. Once the eight locations were chosen, Library’s Youth Services staff worked with Sisters of Abundant Living to facilitate set up of meals and prepare sites for meal service.

It was determined that meals/snacks would be served during a half-hour, regularly scheduled time that continued from early June to August 16, 2013. One Library staff member (and alternate) was designated to supervise during meal times. Locations adapted the program to fit their needs by offering meal time around other structured activities such as story times. Meals were delivered in Styrofoam containers, with all components individually wrapped. Delivery drivers bring food in the morning and pick up food containers after meal service. The Sisters for Abundant Living provides serving gloves, trash bags, utensils and, if necessary, small tables and folding chairs for locations without enough seating. The meals and snacks were provided at no cost to the Library or to the public.

Achieved Outcomes

Since this was the first year that Broward County Library provided Free Summer Food, the program begin in a limited number of libraries (8) with the expectation that, if it was successful, it would be expanded the following year. An initial goal of 5,000 meals served before August 16 was determined before the outset of the program. By August 16, 2013 when the program ended, Broward County Library had served over 7,000 meals. Because of this successful launch, the number of locations participating in Summer 2014 has risen to 12 and this year’s goal is to serve minimum of 15,000 meals. Offering free food and snacks to youth during the summer is an example of how Broward County Library is expanding its mission and position in the community. Today’s library has grown far beyond a repository for books - it is a community gathering place that is constantly redefining it’s role of providing youth with a safe and nurturing environment for learning and growth.