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WA Community Health Center Serves Up Summer Meals

The federal Summer Food Service program provides funding for children's meals while school is out. (School's Out Washington)
The federal Summer Food Service program provides funding for children's meals while school is out. (School's Out Washington)
June 14, 2017

EVERETT, Wash. - Summer vacation is here, and while that means fun in the sun, for some it also means a lot of hungry days.

Children who normally rely on free and reduced-price lunches are able to get meals through the federal Summer Food Service Program. However, the Food Resource and Action Center found that only one in eight kids takes advantage of the program. The Community Health Center of Snohomish County has stepped up to bring meals to more underserved kids, in partnership with Food Lifeline, a supplier to food banks in western Washington.

Nick Jackal, Food Lifeline's director of community programs, said transportation can be an issue, so they want to meet kids where they are.

"It is very much our intent and the intent of many well-qualified peers in Snohomish County to wrap around these services where folks already are, so that the barriers are lowered just even a little bit," he said. "It has the potential to make a great deal of difference for folks that are in these vulnerable circumstances."

The Snohomish health center is the only one in the state serving meals through the federal program. Many summer meal sites also provide activities to stem summer learning loss. However, the Trump administration has proposed cutting funding to the food-service and other summer programs by next year.

Mallory Lisk, the center's community outreach and enrollment manager, said that last year's summer meal program was a success, so they decided to bring it back, staggering meals with local food banks so that kids have options nearly every day of the week. She said providing meals is outside the traditional view of what health care looks like.

"It's not receiving primary care, per se," she said, "but it is providing our patients with the nutrition and with food that they might not otherwise get, and that then is a direct link into their overall health."

Jackal praised the work that the Community Health Center has done, and said its local approach to fighting hunger can be a model for other communities.

"It really takes that champion, within an organization or within a community, to really see and be able to implement the food resource, in this case, effectively," he said. "So, we are ready to walk in lockstep with those folks that want to plug in to this work and help feed kids."

More information on the Summer Food Service Program is online at fns.usda.gov.

Eric Tegethoff, Public News Service - WA