The Summer Meals program, operated by WithinReach, helps reduce summer hunger across Washington State by providing free nutritious meals and snacks to kids and teens. Nearly one-quarter of all Washington families with children struggle to put food on the table regularly. For children who rely on the free or reduced school meal programs for nutrition during the school year, summertime presents an especially daunting challenge. Local organizations run summer meals sites at schools, recreation centers, community-based organizations, faith-based organizations, and camps.
For four years the Des Moines Area Food Bank has been providing Summer Meals to kids and teens in their community. In the first year of operation, they had two sites and since then have expanded programs to more than 30 locations in Des Moines, SeaTac, Burien and Federal Way. This summer they will serve an average of 4,000 meals a week to hungry kids and teens. In an effort to serve as many meals as possible, they offer a 5-day a week program through Labor Day. As of July 20th, more than 26,000 meals have been served, making a big impact on reducing summer hunger in the communities they serve.
The Des Moines Area Food Bank is successful because of their volunteers. Each morning a group of dedicated volunteers and staff meet at the Des Moines Food Bank and make thousands of lunches and snacks. Midway Park, one of their original summer meals sites, serves kids who attend Madrona Elementary in the Highline School District, a school that has a 94% free and reduced lunch population. On an average day, they serve about 40- 50 kids and a typical lunch includes milk, oranges & apples, carrot sticks, turkey & cheese pitas and tuna wraps. To meet federal requirements for nutritious meals, each child is required to choose three of the four options available to them, but they are encouraged to take one of each.
In addition to nutritious food, the Des Moines Area Food Bank also offers educational activities at each of their Summer Meals sites. Currently, eight United Way of King County AmeriCorps VISTA service members are stationed at the sites to lead fun and educational activities with the kids. In addition to VISTA’s, local volunteers share their skills and knowledge. At Midway Park a local volunteer, Joan Marie, leads ukulele lessons. With funding from the Rotary Club and a discount from a local store, they purchased a number of brightly colored ukuleles for the kids to play. At another one of their Summer Meals sites at Redondo Beach has created a partnership with the Marine Science and Technology Center (MaST) of Highline Community College where kids can learn about the marine life of the Puget Sound.
WithinReach has operated the Summer Meals program six years as part of the organization’s mission to make the connections that Washington families need to be healthy. In 2012, the organization connected 220,000 people to resources --including Medicaid, CHIP, Basic Food and WIC -- creating healthy families and healthy communities.
For a list of all the Summer Meals sites and other resources, visit WithinReach’sParentHelp123.