Summer meal sites play an important role in feeding kids’ bodies and minds when school is out of session. Many sites provide not only healthy meals and snacks, but also offer physical activity and enrichment activities to keep children and teens engaged and coming back. Finding free and low-cost activities to incorporate into your summer meal programs helps boost attendance and makes the meal service more fun, for children and volunteers alike. Community partners may be willing to facilitate activities for children or families, and local businesses may offer to donate books, toys, and other supplies to enhance your program.
Spotlight on First Book!
According to the National Summer Learning Association, more than half of the achievement gap between lower- and higher-income youth can be explained by unequal access to summer learning opportunities. Children who were given access to books over the summer, after three summers, performed an astounding 35 to 40 percent better on reading achievement tests than those without access to books over the summer months.
First Book, the nonprofit social enterprise, is a partner with USDA to make it easy for summer meal programs to use books to build engaging programming at meal service sites. Here’s what sponsors, partners, and sites can do to add books and reading enrichment activities to summer meal programs:
- Sign up with First Book. All summer meal program sites are eligible to sign up with First Book. Registration is easy and free.
- Use kick-off events as opportunities to distribute books. Consider hosting a “Books on Wheels” program as part of your summer meal program launch.
- It is easy for your summer meal program volunteers to use books and free downloadable resources from First Book for summer fun activities with children.
- If additional funding is needed to bring more books to your community, First Book can help host a Virtual Book Drive.
For more information, visit: http://blogs.usda.gov/2015/05/20/adding-a-helping-of-books-to-nutritious-summer-meals/