School’s out and for many children, that's where many of their meals came from the last year, but the Foodbank of Santa Barbara County has a plan.
The Foodbank along with local schools are working once again to make sure children from across the county have access to free and healthy lunches this summer.
Lacy Baldiviez, the Director of Community Programs and Education, told KSBY, “Some local studies, and even some national studies, we expect food insecurity to be up 30% this year.”
She said the increase is due to the COVID-19 pandemic and the loss of wages and jobs. This year, the Foodbank increased the number of sites to 12 for its annual Picnic in the Park program.
Marilu Jones, a grandmother and caretakers of several children who benefit from the program, said, “This program is great and it helps with the kids. Sometimes children don’t have help at home, for many reasons.”
Parents and children can either drive or walk up to pick up their food. The Foodbank is also working with local DJs to pump up the energy.
Baldiviez said, “On select days, there will be concerts from local DJs to just improve the atmosphere and make sure people are having a good time.”
People can find the lineup at the Foodbank of Santa Barbara County website.
Carlos Murta, the Food Service Coordinator at the Santa Maria Bonita School District said, “Every meal will have a breakfast and lunch. We serve some of the most popular ones, which is the pupusas and tamales.”
At Bill Libbon Elementary School in Santa Maria, program coordinators started the summertime lunch program last Thursday, ahead of Monday’s official start date.
Any child under the age of 18 will be able to stop at any of the county sites and pick up a healthy lunch.
Murta explained, “We didn’t want to do a gap between when school ended and the kids come back from the summer school, so we wanted to have an option for the kids to have a source of food.”
Program coordinators say right now, they serve around 7,000-8,000 meals a day as many families are juggling obstacles they couldn’t have imagined before the pandemic.
Jones said of the program, “We really appreciate, I am really thankful. They’ve been doing a great job.”
Across Santa Barbara County, parents and children can stop at various sites, some located at school campuses. The rules for those eligible have been relaxed.
Bree Valla, the Deputy Superintendent of Lompoc Unified School District, which is also hosting some of the sites, said, “Wonderfully, the USDA has allowed it so that any child under the age of 18 is allowed to come and get food from any of our school sites, regardless of family income and regardless even if they are a student in Lompoc Unified.”
The meals are intended for children under 18 but any child and their guardian can stop by, even if they do not attend that school site.
Throughout Santa Barbara County, there are nearly 50 meal distribution sites in coordination with No Kid Hungry.
People anywhere in the county can text SUMMERFOOD to 877-877 to be sent a list of sites nearest them.
Organizers say no paperwork or registration is required.