The Coast News Group

$20k grant expands school district Summer Meal Program

OCEANSIDE — Oceanside Unified School District (OUSD) will be able to feed more kids this summer thanks to a $20,000 grant awarded by the National League of Cities.

Funds provided by the CHAMPS (Cities Combating Hunger through Afterschool and Summer Meals Programs), grant will be directed towards opening additional sites where kids can receive free, nutritious meals during the summer break.

The school district summer meal program fills the gap for kids who rely on free or reduced price breakfasts and lunches during the school year. The program is primarily funded through the USDA Food and Nutrition Service.

In the summer of 2015, there were 17 locations where Oceanside kids could receive a free meal. Over the summer months 38,600 lunches were served to hungry kids.

Last year there were 20 meal sites.

It is estimated only 22.5 percent of Oceanside students who qualify for free or reduced price school lunches participate in the summer program.

One reason for low participation is lack of transportation to get to sites where meals are served.

Unfortunately if locations are not within walking distance, or do not have an activity draw, kids do not come.

To help increase participation, meals are distributed at summer school campuses, city parks and community centers within neighborhoods of high need.

This year’s goal is to add three to five additional meal distribution sites.

Additionally more partnerships with youth programs will be developed, so meal locations can be linked with popular summer activities.

Grant monies will also support formal collaboration between OUSD, the city’s Housing and Neighborhood Services, and the San Diego Hunger Coalition watchdog group.

Yanez said funds would allow the agencies to form a task force to address child hunger and food insecurity for low-income Oceanside families.

An outreach campaign is planned to build awareness among families, and increase the site participation of summer youth programs, so more kids will be fed.