Hunger doesn’t take a vacation when school meals aren’t available leaving many low-income children to go without regular meals when school lets out for the summer. Summer meals help fill this gap and keep children fed all year long. The City of Oceanside and Oceanside Unified School District kicked off their free summer meals program with two family-friendly barbecue events organized by the San Diego Hunger Coalition. Thanks to these events, which featured a resource fair and fun activities for the children, many families learned about the summer meal program for the first time. More than 500 meals were distributed to low-income families at each event.
The barbecues took place on Thursday, June 22nd at Balderrama Park and Thursday, June 29th at Libby Lake Park and were part of a collaborative effort to expand participation at existing out-of-school meal sites and launch new sites in the city funded by a grant written by the San Diego Hunger Coalition with the City of Oceanside resulting in a $20,000 award from the National League of Cities, Combating Hunger through Afterschool and Summer Meal Programs (CHAMPS). A sponsorship from Mission Federal Credit Union helped to feed the parents and adult siblings of the children in attendance so that everyone could enjoy the grilled organic chicken as well as the fresh squash and corn from the Oceanside Unified School District's Nutrition Services garden. Additionally, Feeding San Diego and the San Diego Food Bank handed out bags of fresh produce for families to take home.
The event brought families together from different neighborhoods, many crossing through gang-territory to attend. The City of Oceanside has been working to reclaim the parks as spaces for community building in areas that have struggled with gang activity. The threat of violence at these spaces often keeps families from attending summer meal programs.
In addition to food and fun, the barbecues offered families the opportunity to make their voice heard and support anti-hunger policies. San Diego Hunger Coalition provided paper plates with questions about hunger including: “What would happen if your CalFresh benefits were cut?” and “What would you like your elected officials to know about hunger?” The Hunger Coalition collects these paper plate messages at summer meal sites and mails them to San Diego’s representatives to help advocate for federal and state anti-hunger policies that affect local families.
There are more than 220 FREE summer meal sites in San Diego County. To find a summer meal site near you text ‘FOOD’ or ‘COMIDA’ to 877-877 or call 2-1-1. No registration or sign-up is required.