For some students, the school year may be over, but the Chico Unified School District is doing its part this summer to make sure kids are ready to learn when they return in the fall. According to the USDA, more than 21 million children nationwide receive free or reduced price meals during the school year, but when school is out many low-income kids that rely on these meals go hungry. That's why the Chico Unified School District decided to do something about it by continuing to provide free meals to those students during the summer months. Vince Enserro, Director of Nutrition Services, helped get the program up and running last summer.
"I had a great opportunity to spend time with some of those families that utilized the program, and to hear their stories, just down and out on their luck at that point and time. (They were) struggling to find work and really struggling to provide for their kids," he says.
A study done by the USDA showed kids who weren't getting the proper nutrients during the summer months had a lower retention rate when returning to school. District officials say they're hopeful that they can bridge that gap. The program serves students and parents at more than 20 sites throughout Chico and is able to provide anywhere from 700 to more than 1,000 meals a day.
District officials are also trying to reach out to parents so that students can carry over the same healthy eating habits at home, and some parents couldn't agree more. Leilani McClintock has breakfast and lunch at Chapman Elementary School with her step-daughter and granddaughter every week, and says the program is a huge help.
"It's important that these kids eat right. They don't need sweets. They don't need sodas. I'm really, really liking their food change," she says.
The summer feeding program will be going through August 9th. More details about the program can be found on the CUSD website.