Library Corner: Free lunch for children at the Library

Submitted by: Stacey Zwald Costello | County Librarian Colusa County Library

For many families, the stability, nutrition, and education that are provided by the school lunch program, the school day, and after-school programs, ends when school lets out for summer. During the summer vacation, many families with young children and teens often struggle to have their basic needs met, and for many, the summer months mean reduced or limited access to healthy food, learning and enrichment programs, and safe places to congregate and be active.

16.7 million children and teens under the age of 18 in the United States live in households where they are unable to consistently access enough nutritious food for a healthy life. The USDA Summer Food Service Program helps to ensure that children and teens receive nutritious meals when school is not in session by enabling community based organizations, such as the public library, to offer healthy meals to children and teens.

Lunch at the Library programs — accessible, popular with families, providing healthy meals and learning and enrichment opportunities, and free of charge — are helping to address the need for appealing, enriching, summer meal sites, and are helping to ensure that children and teens return to school in the fall ready to learn.

Research has shown that as a result of having limited summertime opportunities, children and teens in low-income families suffer significantly from a loss of academic skills during the summer months and they experience greater summer learning loss than their peers in higher-income families. This summer learning shortfall widens the achievement gap and can impact whether or not a child graduates from high school and continues on to college.
To help ensure that all children are nourished and engaged during the summer months, the main branch of the Colusa County Free Library is piloting a Lunch at the Library program. Each Monday, Wednesday and Friday, June 11 – August 10, from noon – 12:45 PM, any and all local children and teens, ages 0–18, are welcome and encouraged to stop by the Colusa Library, eat a healthy, delicious meal, and participate in one of the many engaging and fun summer programs that the library has developed. The programs and meals are free to all, regardless of income.

In an earlier press release, prior to securing the Lunch at the Library program, the Colusa County Free Library announced the many Summer Reading Program options. Since that article ran, we have had unprecedented and unexpected interest in programming for ages 0-5. Because of this, we have partnered with the Community in Unity Resource Center to offer two additional programs! On Mondays, Community in Unity will host Imagination Stations @ the Library!

The Imagination Stations @ the Library program will feature energetic music and movement activities as well as interactive activity stations for young children that focus on the Library’s weekly theme of, “Reading takes you places.” This program will offer children aged 0-5, cooperative early learning opportunities on a drop-in basis at the Colusa Library Branch each Monday, from 12:30 to 1:30 p.m.

unity in Unity will also host Kids on the Block Lego Club from 12:30 to 1:30 p.m. Each week participants will build new and creative projects. The goal of the club is to get the children to bring their imaginations to life, while meeting new people and making new friends.

This summer, the library will keep your kid’s bellies and minds full and offer a safe, cool space for them to have fun!

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