Summer is supposed to be a time when kids can break free from the rigors of school. But for some, it also means no more school lunches, which is why districts around the state are taking the initiative to make sure their kids stay well fed.
According to Ed Source, Riverside Unified School District (RUSD) has been hosting barbecues in parks located in lower income neighborhoods. With partial funding from the U.S. Department of Agriculture, the district has made healthy lunches available to any child ages 2 to 17.

The district expects to serve more than half a million meals through its summer program, notes the report. It adds that in 2011, more than 84 percent -- or 2 million children -- who received federally funded school meals during the school year did not get free lunches during the summer.

The director of food services for Santa Barbara’s public schools, Nancy Weiss, has made use of one-time taco trucks that now visit the district’s parks, passing our free lunches to hungry kids.

Below are a couple of recommendations on how other districts can follow this lead:
  • Local school nutrition services departments should work with community leaders and community-based organizations to sponsor meal programs and disseminate information to students and their families about available summer meal sites.
  • Summer meal advocates, administrators, and academic partners should develop and implement a summer nutrition research agenda to better understand what nutrition resources are available to low-income students.
As the effects of the recession continue to impact families across the state, it is remarkable that school districts are rallying to ensure that children do not go hungry over the summer.

Stephanie Espinoza is a fellow with New America Media's Youth Education Fellowship. The fellowship is a six-month long program for youth reporters aged 16-24 on education reporting. It is sponsored by the California Education Policy Fund.