No Kid Hungry launches grab-and-go version of its summer program
The parking lot of La Cumbre Junior High School was turned into a makeshift drive-through early Friday afternoon as No Kid Hungry handed out free meals to low-income kids and their families during the kickoff of the Free Summer Meal Program.
First corralled through the efforts of movie star and local resident Jeff Bridges in 2013, No Kid Hungry is a coalition of local organizations such as the Santa Barbara Unified School District, the Foodbank of Santa Barbara County, the United Boys and Girls Club of Santa Barbara County, and the United Way.
The partnership is dedicated to feeding economically disadvantaged kids and their families during the summer. This is because the summer has the months with no school, which also means the months of no free school lunches.
As No Kid Hungry consultant Laura Capps put it, the group of organizations is “battling against the assumption that since school’s out that means meals are done.”
She added, “Summer is just such an important time for children, and usually it’s the time when hunger strikes.”
Mr. Bridges, No Kid Hungry’s national spokesperson, said in a press release, “This summer, even as we stay apart, we will be coming together to make sure the kids of Santa Barbara get the meals they need to thrive.”
While in the past No Kid Hungry has served meals to kids in places like public parks and even held concerts to entertain the kids while they enjoy their food, crowd restrictions due to the COVID-19 pandemic preclude the possibility of throwing such events.
At 11:30 a.m. Friday, La Cumbre Junior High’s kitchen staff stood at the sidewalk of the school’s lot by a table topped with plastic boxes filled with a lunch of sandwiches, fruit and vegetables.
They also handed out breakfast items such as bagels in brown paper bags.
Santa Barbara Unified School District food service director Matt Dittman was present at the handout site and recalled it was quite a challenge converting the Free Summer Meal Program’s event-oriented serving to a grab-and-go style.
“My fifth day on this job was actually when they closed down the schools, and we had to figure out how to convert into this kind of system, so logistically it was challenging to say the least,” he said.
Though No Kid Hungry’s Free Summer Meal Program began Friday, the coalition has been feeding kids since March 16. Since then, SBUSD alone has served more than half a million meals, according to Mr. Dittman.
Of the 50 handout sites that No Kid Hungry operates throughout Santa Barbara County, 11 are operated by the school district.
By the end of the Free Summer Meal Program, Ms. Capps expects No Kid Hungry will have handed out several hundred thousand meals, possibly just shy of a million.
No Kid Hungry serves meals Monday through Friday at its 50 sites, each operated by one of the organizations that make up the coalition. The sites open at 11:30 a.m.
Those interested in receiving free meals should text “FOOD” to the number 877-877.