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Schools Offer Kids Free Summer Lunch Program

Children all over San Diego are able to enjoy fun games and free lunches this summer thanks to San Diego Unified's Summer Fun Café program.

The program, which had only six locations when it began 10 years ago, now offers 69 sites where children ages 2 to 18 can enjoy a healthy meal, as well as engage in fun physical activities throughout the summer. It is funded by the U.S. Department of Agriculture.

Today's BBQ kickoff event will be held at the Skyline Hills Community Park from 10:30 a.m. to 2 p.m. and will be free for the whole family thanks to the WalMart Foundation.

“It’s a great place for children, especially in low-income areas where the parents don’t have the money to support sending their kids away to day camp for a week,” said Gary Petill, Director of the District’s Food Services program. “The kids can go one day a week, five days a week or everyday throughout the whole summer.”

Last summer the program successfully served 300,000 children and this year expects to reach 350,000 with the “Power Up Your Summer” theme.

Each lunch follows the federal nutritional guidelines by including a sandwich, fruit and juice. In late July, 35 of the locations, mainly schools, will also start offering breakfast.

According to Petill, a lot of the children fed by this program are eating their only meal each day because of the Summer Fun Café.

“School is a home for many of these kids and it’s important when they are out of school and their parents are working for them to have a place where they can be dropped off to spend the day, have physical activity and a healthy meal,” said Petill.

The school district’s main partnership is with the San Diego Cities Park and Recreation Services, but this year the program will also get support -- in the form of volunteers and entertainment -- from the San Diego Food Bank, Feeding America, the Girl Scouts and the Pad Squad.

“This whole program is funded not by the school district but by the United States Department of Agriculture,” said Petill. “So there is a big push to reach children when they’re out of school and reach families who are in need.”

Petill talked to one family who told him that this program helps save them $100 a week on their grocery bill.

“It really is helping families to meet their rent, their gas and many other expenses,” he said.

The kick-off will offer activities such as cooking demonstrations, music and crafts, an inflatable jumper and fruit and veggie games. Also, information about low cost utility and healthcare programs, food assistance, housing and health screenings will be provided by community organizations.

For information on Summer Fun Café locations, dates and times visit www.sandi.net.

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