Every year, the city hosts its free summer lunch and snack program to lend a helping hand to local families.
This program provides healthy meals and snacks to children under the age of 18, and while hundreds of families benefit from this program each year, this summer is different.
During lunch, the children smiled and ate their pizzas, vegetables and strawberries at the César Chávez Library.
The library is one of six locations offering free meals as part of the program.
However, Deputy Librarian Mila Rianto says there has been a trend of smaller groups coming in to get free food at most locations.
The program usually sees 100 families come in daily for some meals, but Rianto says those numbers have been 20 to 25.
The question is, why.
Rianto says the lower turnout could be because the meals are for dinner, unlike previous distributions when parents were able to pick up and take meals home due to health and safety precautions from the COVID-19 pandemic.
“The impact was super huge, especially during COVID when everything was closed,” Rianto said. “We had a drastic jump in participation during that time.”
On the other hand, Rianto says local schools are also doing their part in distributing free meals to the community, and parents who travel to schools for meals may not know their options closer to home.
At El Dorado Park, another place that offers free meals, Salinas resident Patricia Fuentes says bringing her two grandchildren was a no-brainer.
“It’s shocking to see the prices of meat, eggs and just basic necessities,” Fuentes said. “People who are disadvantaged, who are unemployed, who are on a fixed income, it’s very difficult for them.”
Fuentes believes that the benefits of the program apply not only to savings, but also to the social and educational development of children when they eat.
The park and library allow children to participate in activities such as reading books, coloring and using toys.
“My grandchildren are four and five years old and they will be going to school next fall, so help them get ready,” Fuentes said. “It gets them used to eating alone, cleaning up after themselves, and they can socialize and do some fun activities with the other kids.”
Parents and council staff encourage all families to take advantage of the program as it is in its last week.
The program will run from Monday to Friday until August 5.
Times and places:
- Lunch is served from 12 to 1 p.m. and snacks from 3 to 4 p.m. in Central Park and the César Chávez Library. The library will be closed every Monday.
- Lunch is served from 12:15 to 13:15 and snack from 15:15 to 16:15 at Closter Park.
- Lunch is served from 12:30 to 1:30 p.m. and snacks from 3:30 to 4:30 p.m. in El Dorado Park.
- Lunch is served from 1:15 pm to 2:15 pm and snacks from 4:15 pm to 5:15 pm at the Firehouses Recreation Center.
- Snack only from 4 to 5 p.m. at the Bread Box Recreation Center
Salinas free summer lunch program sees low turnout Source link Salinas free summer lunch program sees low turnout