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Above: Eagle Peak students show off their fava bean haul.

USDA Joins Community Partners to Expand Access to Summer Meals for Children

Monday, July 6, 2015

This Friday, July 10, everyone is invited to enjoy a free lunch and celebrate the 40th anniversary of a popular summer meals program at Todd Grove Park with a free lunch featuring locally grown food from 10:30-12:30.

U.S. Department of Agriculture (USDA) officials will join representatives from the California Department of Education, North Coast Opportunities, the Ukiah Unified School District, and members of the Ukiah community at this event to bring attention to childhood hunger.

“USDA’s school meal programs play an important role in providing children with healthy breakfasts and lunches.” says Jesus Mendoza, Jr., Western Regional Administrator of the USDA Food and Nutrition Service. “But we know that hunger doesn’t stop just because school is out. That is why we are proud to be working with partners like the Ukiah Unified School District to help fill this gap through USDA summer meals programs, which provide nutritious meals to children throughout the summer and help them return to school ready to learn.” 

North Coast Opportunities’ Farm2School project, the Ukiah Valley Medical Center, Chavez Market, Ukiah Natural Foods Co-Op, First Five Mendocino, and the Ukiah Public Library are all supporting the event with donations and activities for kids. There will be a bounce house, kid-friendly yoga, a hula hoop contest with prizes, a smoothie bike, and arts and crafts. Additionally, USDA representatives are bringing seeds and other fun gifts for kids. And, since summer meals are for youth 18 and under, Plowshares and Ukiah’s Food Bank are providing food for adults so that everyone attending will be able to enjoy a free lunch.

During the school year, more than 21 million children rely on free and reduced-price meals, but only 3.8 million participate in USDA's summer meal programs: the Summer Food Service Program (SFSP) and the National School Lunch Program's Seamless Summer Option. These programs work in concert to close this gap by ensuring children have access to safe, healthy meals when school lets out.

USDA’s summer meal programs align well with the peak growing season in many regions across the country, allowing schools and non-profit organizations to serve fruits and vegetables in their freshest state and keep children nourished while school is out. During Friday’s event, kids will enjoy local, fresh vegetables from Covelo Organics and Brookside School Farm, and July marks the third month in a row with locally grown food on the UUSD’s school menu. “We’re all working together to make a different kind of school lunch,” says NCO Farm2School Project Coordinator Megan Watson, who is organizing the event. “Farm to school programs help connect kids with the nutritious, delicious food they deserve, and also help grow our local economy by supporting small farmers.”

The USDA's Food and Nutrition Service oversees the administration of 15 nutrition assistance programs that touch the lives of one in four Americans over the course of a year. These programs work in concert to form a national safety net against hunger. Visit for more information.