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Program Offers Free Meals to Low-Income Kids During Summer Months

ELK GROVE -- School may be out for the summer but cafeteria staff is still in food prep mode at the Elk Grove’ School District’s Central Kitchen.

The summer meal program isn’t new but the Sacramento County goal this year is.

"Our goal really was for a million kids to come out because we serve more than that for the school year," Michelle Drake, director of nutrition services for the Elk Grove Unified School District, told FOX40.

Drake says many families rely on free or reduced-cost school lunches, and the summer months put a heavy strain on family finances.

"They have to find a way to come up with those funds to buy healthy foods for their family and that’s not always easy for families who are already on a tight budget when school is in session," she said.

The focus is not just filling, but nourishing them.

"When families can’t afford a $4 gallon of milk, then them coming to the park or the library to get a meal gives them that ability to get that dairy product or to get that lean protein or fresh fruit, those kinds of items," Drake said.

This statewide program makes summer meals available to kids 18 and under at various community accessible sites, including some Sacramento County libraries.

"Families talk a lot about the value of eating together and sharing a meal and community and this a great way to offer that. When it's hot outside it’s really nice to have a place where you can come and have lunch and also stay all day," Sacramento Library Director of Youth Services Christie Hamm said.

From a librarian’s perspective, Hamm says the free meals offer the perfect opportunity to feed not just young bellies, but young minds.

"We have all the library resources available for families, the summer reading program, they can access the computers, check out books, have access to educational materials and just fun all summer long," Hamm said.

Find the closest free summer meal by clicking here. The program is available to people under 18.