Groups step up lunch alternatives for needy students

Glendale Unified is partnering with several local civic organizations to provide free lunches to children who may not know where their midday meals will come from during the summer months.

Keeping children fed is important in making sure students remain healthy throughout the summer so they are prepared for the next school year, organizers said.

“The lack of nutrition during the summer months could lead to a more challenging school year the next year,” said Jennifer Chin, director of food service with Glendale Unified.

“Hunger can also make children more prone to illness and health issues.”

Technically, the National School Lunch Program continues during summer school, but for the third consecutive year, the district will offer only heavily scaled-back summer classes due to budget constraints.

That could leave many low-income students and their families scrambling for alternatives.

The meals will be served at Glendale High School from 11 a.m. to 12:30 p.m. June 18 through July 20, weekdays only. Meals will also be available at Pacific and Palmer parks, 11:30 a.m. to 1 p.m. June 18 through August 17, weekdays only.

All children up to age 18 are eligible.

The Seamless Summer Feeding Program is an extension of the National School Lunch Program, funded by the U.S. Department of Agriculture. Partners include the city of Glendale, the Salvation Army, Glendale Kiwanis and the Rotary Club of Glendale, Chin said.

In Los Angeles County, just one in six students who receives free or reduced-price meals during the academic year does so during summer break, according to California Food Policy Advocates, a public policy organization dedicated to food accessibility.

“Summer nutrition has suffered because summer enrichment and learning opportunities have shrunk,” senior advocate Matthew Sharp said.

“That is the headline. The summer meals may be an indicator of reduced opportunities for families that have significant impact, certainly from a health standpoint.”

In Glendale Unified, 12,521 students — or 47% of total district enrollment — qualified for free and reduced-prices meals during the 2011-12 school year.

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