Redwood Empire Food Bank’s Summer Lunch program helps children in need

Summer season generally is a time of starvation for some youngsters and teenagers in Sonoma County.

When faculties shut in June, hundreds of youngsters lose entry to free and reduced-cost lunches. Because it does each summer time, the Redwood Empire Meals Financial institution is working to shut that hole.

From June 7 via Aug. 6, the nonprofit is providing free, wholesome breakfasts and lunches to youngsters as much as 18 years outdated. The meals can be served at three dozen areas across the county.

Final yr, with COVID-19 nonetheless rampant, the meals financial institution reduce the variety of Summer season Lunch program distribution websites to 20. Nevertheless it nonetheless served round 85,000 meals — many hundreds greater than in a traditional summer time, stated Allison Goodwin, the director of applications for the group.

That spike resulted from loosened laws. Earlier than the pandemic, the USA Division of Agriculture required that each youngster receiving a free meal be current throughout that 30-minute meal distribution interval. They needed to sit there, and eat on the web site, stated Goodwin.

With the onset of COVID-19, these restrictions went away. The Summer season Lunch program transitioned to grab-and-go breakfast and lunch, providing care packages of groceries for household that may very well be taken dwelling to arrange and eat. Mother and father have been allowed to select up the meals at drive-thru websites. The youngsters not needed to be current. Now, stated Goodwin, a mum or dad “can depart an older teenager dwelling whereas the child’s napping, then drive over and get the meals for the week.”

Through the pandemic, the Redwood Empire Meals Financial institution has been capable of “’bundle” meals — breakfast and lunch — for all 5 weekdays. “So we’re capable of feed extra folks, and supply extra meals” than underneath the earlier mannequin, she stated.

With these relaxed restrictions, the meals financial institution was capable of serve 94% extra meals to households in want than in earlier years, “We’re crossing our fingers that these waivers don’t’ go away,” stated Goodwin. “We’re advocating for that.”

The Redwood Empire Meals Financial institution is reimbursed by the state of California for a portion of these free meals, that are ready and transported to the websites by the Santa Rosa Metropolis Colleges.

The free meals can solely be supplied close to faculties deemed low-income by the state’s division of schooling. However youngsters are welcome at any web site, no matter whether or not they attend college in that district, stated Maria Fuentes, supervisor of the meals financial institution’s Each Baby, Each Day program.

A few third of the 36 Summer season Lunch websites have been “co-located,” stated Goodwin, at locations the place the meals financial institution is already distributing groceries for households in want. That year-round operation is separate from the Summer season Lunch program.

Some folks have are available in to select up groceries, and realized they they’ll get Summer season Lunch meals, too, she stated. “So that they’ve been pleasantly shocked.”

You possibly can attain Workers Author Austin Murphy at 707-521-5214 or or on Twitter @ausmurph88.

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