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Tuesday, August 14, 2012

DC Public Library Participates in Free Summer Meals Program

Literacy isn't the only thing Washington, DC, public libraries offered kids this summer. They also served up some lunch.The DC Public Library is participating in the District's Free Summer Meals Program (FSMP). Eleven libraries will serve lunch from 1 p.m. to 2:30 p.m. on Mondays through Fridays to children and teens 18 and younger.   Identification is not required.     The District's Free Summer Meals Program (FSMP) is funded by the United States Department of Agriculture (USDA) and administered by the Office of the State Superintendent of Education (OSSE).

This year, 11 out of 25 branches participated in the DC Free Summer Meals Program, providing kids 11,550 boxed lunches that include carrots, sandwiches, and chocolate milk—all fully funded by the United States Department of Agriculture.

Now in its second year, the public libraries decided to add special programming to the day's lunch— with the topic and activity individually handled by each branch, says Cooper.

Students who are eligible for free or reduced priced school lunches also qualified for the free summer meals —although any child could take part in all branch activities that took place during the 1 p.m.- 2:30 p.m. slot when lunch was served. While programs varied at each branch, they included reading hours, science programs—and even a chance to play Wii games while snacking on fruit cups.

Although numbers are still being tallied, Cooper says branches have reported seeing more kids since the program launched in 2011—whether that includes coming in early to read or staying after "to appreciate the air conditioning," she says.

Meals are delivered at about 7:30 a.m. at participating branches, says Cooper. And while most libraries don't open until 9:30 a.m. or 1 p.m. depending on the day, library staff must be present to accept deliveries of the boxed lunches. Refrigerators were also purchased with grant money to keep the meals fresh for lunch time.

This year, DC expanded the number of library lunch sites to 11 from seven.

"Just as teachers see kids who are hungry, so too, library staff noticed kids who were hungry," says Cooper. "We're thrilled to be able to feed their bodies as the same time as providing nourishment for their minds."