Special Appearance: Summer Meals Site Visit
A crowd of kids descended on Renton School District’s Summer Meals site at Heritage Park on a random Tuesday in July, expecting nothing more than a tasty free lunch. Imagine their surprise when they found Seahawks tackle Russell Okung serving lunch! Russell passed out sack lunches filled with hoagie sandwiches, corn & bean salad, carrots, chocolate milk & juice; and then stayed to sign autographs and take pictures with the kids.
Renton’s Summer Meals program, sponsored by Renton School District, has been operating in many of the same sites for six years. Kira Acker, Nutrition Services Manager for the district, says that this is one reason why the program is so successful at bringing kids and families back year after year. Kira reaches kids where they live, learn and play by partnering with the City of Renton’s Recreation Division (parks), Renton Housing Authority, apartment complexes, a church, several schools, and even the Salvation Army – to offer Summer Meals at 17 sites throughout Renton.
As kids finished eating, one brave boy asked Russell “Do you think you’re faster than me?” To which Russell replied “You want to race?” The Super Bowl Champion proceeded to lose a race, and win the hearts, of three young fans, who will remember this day forever. Thank you Russell, for making Summer Meals fun for kids, and bringing more awareness to this program that helps lesser known champions like Kira, fill the tummies of hungry kids all summer long.
Spread the Word about Summer Meals for Kids!
Last week, a number of amazing opportunities came to fruition for us around Summer Meals Program outreach. First, Liz Jaquette and I were the guests on the Clear Channel radio public affairs show. For 30 minutes, we got to share lots of information about the Summer Meals Program and the relationship between inadequate nutrition and summer learning loss.
Second, we partnered with Safeway and the Seahawks to develop a PSA for the Summer Meals program. KIRO shot the PSA and it will air on KIRO 7 throughout the summer. Russell Okung, the Seahawks All-Star Offensive Lineman, volunteered to star in the PSA with four ridiculously cute elementary school kids. Note how thrilled we all look to be meeting Russell in our photo op with him.
The goal of both media opportunities is to get the word out that the Summer Meals Program is the extension of the School Meals Program throughout the summer and program sites will be serving meals as soon as the school year ends. We’ve been able to build these phenomenal partnerships because when we share how poorly utilized this program is and how significant an issue hunger is in our state, people can’t believe it. The following are the facts that close the deal when you are asking for partners to help:
- Washington State is the 15th hungriest state in the nation.
- Yet we have one of the lowest participation rates in the Summer Meals Program nationally. Only 10% of the kids who qualify for free and reduced price meals and eat school meals during the school year continue to participate in the program during the summer.
- There are more than 800 Summer Meals Program sites throughout Washington.
We are doing a really bad job of feeding our neediest kids during the summer.
Why? Focus group research has found that the top barrier is lack of awareness. Less than half of the families that eat school meals during the school year realize that the program continues during the summer months. And for those that know it exists, most don’t know where to go. That’s where we come in. WithinReach has the Summer Meals Program site information for the entire state. Families can call us, use our site search tool on ParentHelp123.org, or text us.
We need everyone to help. Please get the word out in your community.
- Call 1-888-436-6392
- Search www.ParentHelp123.org
- Text MEALS to 96859