Lunch @ the Library Highlights
This past summer, the California Summer Meal Coalition partnered with the California Library Association along with summer meal providers and libraries in Sacramento, Fresno, Los Angeles, and San Diego County to jointly combat summer learning loss and the summer nutrition gap through a thoughtful approach to libraries as summer meal sites. While summer meals may not fit one’s traditional perception of the library, libraries involved with the project saw this as a natural extension of the work that libraries already do. And in case you aren’t aware of the many ways in which your local library is serving families, we’d encourage you to find out!
Collectively, participating library branches served 13,348 lunches and 432 snacks. Highlights from the project include:
- Increased participation in library summer reading programs and issuance of library cards. In addition, the Sacramento Public Library reported an uptick in visits from families who had not been to the library before.
- Successful youth engagement effort. Libraries recruited teen volunteers to assist with the effort. Teens had an opportunity to play an meaningful role in the community while gaining job skills. At the conclusion of the program in Los Angeles and Sacramento, the libraries armed teen volunteers with sample resumes, a summary of their demonstrated skills, and other tools to boost teens’ job and academic readiness (and confidence).
- Expanded community partnerships. In addition to the new relationships developed between libraries and summer meal providers, the effort facilitated new connections. For example, the San Diego County Library’s Lincoln Acres branch partnered with Olivewood Gardens to offer nutrition education, like container gardening (cilantro, tomatoes, and peppers — yum!), cooking, and Zumba classes. Support from California State University Fresno helped the Fresno Public Library offer free books to children while the local Boys & Girls Club provided interns supported through PG & E.
- Value to families. As part of the project, libraries were asked to give children and adults the opportunity to provide feedback. Feedback was universally positive as evidenced by the above survey response from one of Fresno’s young visitors.
The success of the project (which, by the way, was inspired by the leadership of the City of Oakland, Alameda County Community Food Bank and the Oakland Public Library and with the generous support of the David and Lucile Packard Foundation) is an encouraging sign as we look for new ways to increase participation in summer meal programs and support the needs of low-income families. The California Summer Meal Coalition and the California Library Association are producing a guide to help other libraries and summer meal providers develop successful summer partnerships on the experiences of our Lunch @ the Library partners. Stay tuned!