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Food Bank’s summer feeding program in full swing

2nd July 2012   ·   0 Comments

For most children summer is a carefree time, but for thousands of students, summer vacation brings an end to the nutritious meals they and their families rely on through free and reduced breakfast and lunch programs during the school year. Summer Feeding programs provide meals to children who often do not have access to nutritious meals during the summer months and may otherwise go hungry.

Second Harvest Food Bank of Greater New Orleans and Acadiana responded to this critical need in 2010 with a pilot Summer Feeding program which operated out of a temporary, donated kitchen space. In the summer of 2011, working out of the food bank’s newly opened Community Kitchen, Second Harvest grew its summer feeding initiative to provide 101,525 total breakfast and lunch meals to 1,898 children at 35 summer camp locations. This summer, the Second Harvest summer feeding program has expanded once again, and will provide nearly 250,000 meals to approximately 4,000 children at 45 summer feeding sites in the Greater New Orleans area.

In the recent FRAC report, “Hunger Doesn’t Take a Vacation,” state findings from 2011 show that 32 states experienced growth in their summer nutrition programs even with budget cuts. Louisiana was among five states that saw the most dramatic increase in participation at 41.8 percent.

“The Community Kitchen has significantly increased Second Harvest’s capacity to produce and distribute nutritious meals,” said Natalie Jayroe, president and CEO of Second Harvest Food Bank of Greater New Orleans and Acadiana. “The increased capacity and critical collaborations ensure that as many children as possible will receive the nourishment they need during the summer months.”

The food bank prepares, plates and delivers breakfast and lunch meals each Monday through Friday. The eight-week feeding program, which launched on June 4, will run through August 3. At the height of the program, meals will be provided to approximately 4,000 children with the help and dedication of a largely volunteer kitchen staff and drivers who deliver the meals to the children twice a day. This summer, Second Harvest is host to 11 AmeriCorps NCCC volunteers and four Vista Summer Associates who work exclusively in the Community Kitchen.

Second Harvest has been able to grow the Summer Feeding program in part with support from the Emeril Lagasse Foundation, Walmart, ConAgra Foods Foundation and Share Our Strength. Transportation of these meals is made possible by the generous donation of four transit vans by Entergy of Louisiana. These vehicles help the food bank transport the meals to the numerous locations across Orleans and Jefferson from the Community Kitchen on a tight schedule. Relationships with the United States Department of Agriculture Food and Nutrition Services and the Louisiana State Department of Education ensure the long-term sustainability of the Summer Feeding program.

The Second Harvest Food Bank Community Kitchen is helping to address child hunger year-round. In addition to the summer feeding program, the Community Kitchen also provides meals for children through Kids Café®, a program of Feeding America delivered locally by Second Harvest Food Bank which provides healthy meals to children who may not have access to food once they leave school. With the start of the new school year, Second Harvest Food Bank’s Kids Café program will provide daily meals for approximately 1,200 children through participating after-school programs. In addition to the meals provided, Kids Café program sites offer enrichment activities and nutrition education.

To learn more about the Summer Feeding program, Kids Café and Second Harvest Food Bank of Greater New Orleans & Acadiana, visit www.no-hun­ger.org.

This article was originally published in the July 2, 2012 print edition of The Louisiana Weekly newspaper

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