On Monday, we began serving free lunch at the library! At two Los Angeles Public Libraries, actually – Central Library plus the Pacoima Branch. Kids and teens ages 18 and under can eat from June 10 to August 2 – all summer long.
Food at the library, you ask? Is this really a library function?
Think about summer learning loss. Libraries have known for over 100 years that we have a strong role to play in keeping kids’ brains and imaginations active over the long summer vacation.
In poor communities, summer brings another problem. During the year, many students rely on free or reduced-price lunches provided at school by the federal government. When school is closed for the summer (and in our school district, summer school is almost non-existent), kids lose that source of nutrition.
Libraries are free and open to the public in every community, and they offer fun and enriching summer activities for kids. What better place to offer hungry kids a meal along with a membership in the summer reading club?
At Central Library and Pacoima, kids eat a nutritious meal and then sign up for the summer reading club, play with a toy kitchen, make drawings and see programs. Teens come to eat but stay to browse manga and comic books – or to volunteer to serve lunch to kids. Later this summer, we’ll offer games of Pictionary, storytime, art projects and more. Grown-ups can get information about library and community services.
We’re participating as part of the California Library Association’s Summer Lunch at the Library project, along with three other CA library systems. Each library partners with a sponsor that provides the food (our partner is the Los Angeles Regional Food Bank).
The project has two desired outcomes that we will be measuring with surveys, observation and possibly focus groups:
- Participants know that they can get help and essential resources at the library.
- Participants feel healthy.
But most of all, we want kids to have fun – and a full belly – at the library all summer long!
Can’t wait to see how it unfolds!
You’re an inspiration! There is a summer free lunch program in our community, but I would LOVE to bring it to the library.
Oakland Public Library is offering free summer lunch for the third year. Here’s a great article on their program (which was inspiration for CLA’s initiative) – http://oaklandlocal.com/2013/06/pilot-project-serves-free-summer-lunch-to-kids-in-libraries/
Our public library in RI was approached this year with the opportunity to provide free lunches to kids during the summer. We are excited to hear about the success of other libraries throughout the country that provide this great service to kids and we hope to join in on the service.
We are in our second year of providing lunch at the library, courtesy of our elementary school district. It’s been a great success. We’ve seen different faces showing up at our SRP sign up and the library is buzzing!
Some helpful hints – encourage some of your staff to get their Food Handlers Certification. Our library aides who do most of the handing out of food think of this as career development, as it opens them up to being able to apply for jobs in catering. Also – invest in that “one side is sticky” drop cloth if you are serving in areas where the floor is carpeted. It goes down, stays in place and helps you cope with the spills that are to be expected. Pay attention to hot water in the bathrooms andmake sure if you are using a refrigerator it is clean and set at the appropriate temperature.