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Schools feed hungry kids through summer break

(Photo: Laura Seitz, Deseret News, file)

SALT LAKE CITY – While many parents across Utah are finding ways to keep their kids entertained over the summer break, others are just trying to find ways to keep their kids fed.   Some school districts are preparing meals for low-income families that usually lose access to school food during the summer break.

When kids don’t have access to school meals, low-income families depend on agencies like the Utah Food Bank.  That organization is teaming with others to provide meals at parks and libraries all over the state, and they expect this season to be extremely busy.

Utah Food Bank Communications Director Heidi Canella says, “This summer, we’re projecting that we’ll provide 100 thousand free meals for kids.  Those could be at different parks around the state and different libraries.  We have a variety of sites.”

Canella says they have two problems in the summer.  Not only is the need high, but the supply is low.

“Donations slow down as families who are typically in a position to give are focusing on things like summer vacations,” she adds.

The Salt Lake School District is kicking off its summer meal program where they’ll serve breakfast and lunch in 17 schools across the city.  District Child Nutrition Programs Field Supervisor Katie Kapusta says they picked those schools for a specific reason.

Kapusta says, “These are all high-need areas and a lot of the students really rely on the meals during the school year.  So, it’s meant to bridge that gap in the summer months where they may not be eating at home.”

The program is open for all kids 18 years old and younger.  Kapusta says the program is about more than just food.

She says, “It’s nice to see all the kids coming to the park together and eating lunch under a shady tree.  It’s a nice sense of community and it’s a meal we know they need.”