by Treasure Standeford, Hunger Outreach Specialist & Devin Schroeder, Senior Manager of Programs
While school is out between May and August in Oklahoma, more than 1,300 Summer Meals sites are helping to fill the nutrition gap for children and teens by providing no-cost, nutritious meals. The Summer Meals program allows participating programs to serve up to two reimbursable meals each day to all kids ages 18 and under.
School districts, community organizations, food banks and pantries, tribal organizations, youth development programs, city parks, faith-based organizations, and many others leverage dynamic partnerships to reach as many kids as possible through this program each summer. Many programs pair meals with fun enrichment and educational activities to keep kids engaged, learning, and nourished.
As a Summer Meals sponsor, the Community Food Bank of Eastern Oklahoma (CFBEO) coordinates with more than 40 sites in 11 counties to connect meals to kids. In smaller communities, identifying an ideal place to serve Summer Meals can be challenging. Fortunately, during the past several years, Oklahoma’s public libraries have increasingly risen to the challenge by serving as meal sites to fill the gap.
Through a partnership between CFBEO and the Grove Public Library, kids in Delaware County can access free meals when they visit the library to check out books each week. USDA COVID-19 program waivers have allowed CFBEO and Grove Public Library to work together to connect kids to nutritious meals during the school year as well.
According to Brenda Newnam, the Grove Public Library Manager, they have been able to provide roughly 4,000 meals per month to children and teens during the pandemic. While it was hard work for her team, Newnam says, “This past year was filled with uncertainty and worries for all of us. While many things were beyond our control, the meals were something we could all count on. It was gratifying to know our library was fulfilling a major need in the community and providing a sense of security for a lot of families.”
This summer, CFBEO staff members and AmeriCorps VISTA members pack and deliver food to Grove Public Library, working together to distribute multiple grab-and-go meals once a week.
Colleen Almeida Smith, the Community Impact Manager at CFBEO shares, “Libraries are so much more than books these days. They are community sites that provide space for meetings, events and activities. Librarians and other staff members are vital to the recognizing the needs of their neighbors. I love that so many libraries have seen the value of becoming Summer Feeding sites.”
Newnam agrees, “The meals brought a large amount of new families to the library and provided an opportunity for us to introduce all of the services and resources the library has to offer. While it wasn’t always easy, it was undoubtedly worth the time and effort. Not a day went by without kind comments and words of gratitude from the families we served. It was truly heartwarming to know our efforts made such a positive impact.”
Smith adds, “By partnering with Summer Feeding programs, libraries can feed the minds and the stomachs of children in communities with high needs. Grove has been a key site in the partnership with the Eastern Oklahoma Library System.”
“This program has really helped my family throughout the pandemic when I was unemployed. We’re so thankful for the kind library staff for offering this program,” says one parent.
Grove Public Library and Community Food Bank’s partnership is just one example of the on-going collaboration between organizations to ensure that kids and teens can access meals all summer long.
If you are interested in learning more about Summer Meals in your community, complete this quick form and an HFO team member will reach out with more details.
Families can find their nearest Summer Meals location by visiting www.Meals4KidsOK.org.
Do you know a person, team, or organization going above and beyond to support child food security in their community? Nominate them and we can feature their work on social media!