Summer Lunch Program
St. Louis County Library, Mo.
During the summer break from school, St. Louis County Library partners with Operation Food Search to distribute free summer lunches for children ages 2-18. Operation Food Search (OFS) is a food bank that distributes food free-of-charge to feed the poor and hungry in the St. Louis area.
A recent report on food insecurity indicates that 50 million people in the United States are living in food-insecure households, 17 million of whom are children. While most children look forward to summer break, for many parents and caregivers, summer is also a time of anxiety as they wonder if they’ll be able to put enough food on the table without school lunch and breakfast to supplement mealtimes. Missouri ranks among the top ten states with the highest percentage of households classified as food insecure or having very low food security. Missouri has had the single largest increase from 2000 to 2010 in the percent of its population who is food insecure (7.4% increase) or experiences very low food security (4.4% increase).
Key Elements of Innovation
Last summer, the library partnered with OFS to provide lunch for area children ages 2-18 from June to mid-August, Monday through Friday. The meals are funded through the State of Missouri and coordinated by Operation Food Search as part of their “No Kid Hungry” initiative. The library provided lunches at three branches. In 2015, we are adding a fourth location. The majority of locations are in North County where the need is greater. Operation Food Search (OFS) delivers lunches to the library and the library provides additional activities such as board games, crafts, and story times during the lunch hour.
Last summer, Missouri and Illinois were among six states the USDA targeted to expand the summer lunch programs because of the states’ poverty levels and historically low summer meal participation. Last year, we were able to serve over 8,500 lunches to area children who might have gone hungry without this service. By adding a location this year, we hope to provide an additional 2,500 lunches to area children.