The Idaho Foodbank’s Picnic in the Park summer lunch program served 54,442 free meals this summer, an average of 1,008 meals per day and an increase of 3.5% from last year.
The free lunch program wrapped up the summer season in Boise on Aug. 16, after 54 days of service.
Picnic in the Park serves as a way for children to get a nutritious lunch when the free and reduce-price lunches they get in school are not available.
Study after study has shown the damage food insecurity does to young people. Among the findings:
* Food insecurity reduces reading and mathematical performance and socializing skills among school children
* Paradoxically, it increases their weight. Food-insecure girls gain more weight than food-secure girls,
* Food-insecure children of both sexes, compared to those who are food secure, have smaller increases in math scores and reading scores over time.
* Poorer reading performance is evident, particularly among girls. Moreover, there is a fairly short time lag between food insecurity and its effects on girls’ reading.
* Food-insecure boys show greater declines in social skills than food-secure boys.
Picnic in the Park helps students stay nourished over the summer and prepared to go back to school ready to learn.
The need for this program is evidenced locally by both the number of children who flock to Boise city parks and other locations and the comments the Picnic staff gets.
A woman who brought her two grandchildren to Winstead Park, said, “I’ve lived in the neighborhood all my life and I can tell you that without this program a lot of these kids would not get lunch.”
A young boy with a big grin – and two missing teeth – greeted the staff at Northwest Pointe Apartments the same way every day: “The yummy man’s here. The yummy man’s here.”
Of the 25 sites, Redwood Park, as it did last year, proved to be the most popular with 6,352 lunches served this summer. Ivywild Park was second with 5,443 lunches and Winstead Park was third with 5,298.
The highest total distribution came in week two, June 10-14, when the staff handed out 6,426 lunches.
The Foodbank is most grateful to everyone who participated in the program and to our major partners this year – the U.S. Department of Agriculture, the Idaho State Department of Education and the AmeriCorps VISTA Program. Picnic in the Park also received support from Boise City Parks and Recreation and from private funders, which included Old Chicago, ConAgra Foods and the Julius C. Jeker Foundation Inc.
Without you, there would be no Picnic in the Park program.
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