Free Summer Meals Program Helps Keep Kids Healthy and Active
With the school year ending, many students will lose access to consistent, healthy school meals. While Somerville Public Schools does offer many summer programs that will provide breakfast and/or lunch, students who won’t be participating in these programs will still be able to receive a nutritious meal during the summer months. Beginning July 5, the Somerville Food and Nutrition Services Department (FNSD) will provide free breakfast and lunch based on USDA nutrition guidelines to kids and teens 18 years old and younger. According to FNSD Director Lauren Mancini, “When school is out during the summer months and children are no longer receiving breakfast and lunch at school, many families struggle to feed their children nutritious meals each day. Our summer meal program works to fill this critical gap…Meals are served at designated sites during specific times throughout the day. So, bring your friends and enjoy a free, nutritious meal on us. Here’s to a happy and healthy summer!”
Somerville Public Schools clearly recognizes the importance of providing healthy, free breakfast and lunch year-round to local youth. Without the Summer Meals Program, many children may not get the energy they need to be active during the summer months. In a study by No Kid Hungry Center for Best Practices, researchers found that these types of programs can have short and long-term effects on the health and development of children, such as mitigating summer weight gain and learning loss, and may even increase high school graduation rates. Hunger and food insecurity are thus significant threats to both the health and education of youth. The Summer Meals Program ensures that all children can focus on keeping their minds and bodies active and healthy. This stability is vital to the health and wellness of youth in the community.
The 2017 Somerville Summer Meals program will be offered on weekdays throughout July and August at different locations, such as local parks, pools, and playgrounds. This aims to draw more youth to outdoor activities that support fitness and wellness, while also providing a safe environment to participate in social and recreational programs. These proactive settings encourage children and teens to continue growing connections with their community and friendships outside of the classroom. Although a time for vacations, swimming, and soaking up the sun, summer is still a critical period for learning and social development. With consistent access to a healthy breakfast and lunch, all students will be prepared to make the most of their summer experience and continue their academic learning when they return to school in the fall.
For more information about locations, dates, and times of the Summer Meals Program, please visit www.somerville.k12.ma.us/summermeals.
Julie Doten, Tisch Summer Fellow