Alameda County launches summer lunch program in effort to alleviate nutrition gap

Alameda County Social Services Agency/Courtesy

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On Thursday, the Alameda County Social Services Agency, or ACSSA, launched its free lunch program in an attempt to address the nutrition gap during summer months for people ages 18 and under.

The ACSSA is a sponsor of the California Department of Education’s Summer Food Service Program, or SFSP, which is a federally funded program that reimburses organizations that provide meals to minors when they are out of school for at least 15 consecutive school days, according to the California Department of Education website.

The ACSSA program is specifically attempting to alleviate the nutrition gap for children living in areas where at least 50 percent of students receive free or reduced-price school meals.

According to Sylvia Soublet, the ACSSA’s director of public affairs, 74 percent of children in Alameda County who benefit from free or reduced-price lunches during the school year miss out on similarly nutritional lunches during the summer.

“The summer meals program is a direct strike against childhood hunger,” Soublet said in an email from ACSSA spokesperson Kim Fogel.

The program will be offered until Aug. 9 at two locations: the Eastmont Self-Sufficiency Center in Oakland and the Eden Area Multi-Service Center in Hayward, according to the email. Free lunch will be served on weekdays between 11 a.m. and 1 p.m., according to the ACSSA website. No advanced registration or proof of public assistance is necessary, as families are invited to drop in at their convenience.

In addition to its goal of alleviating the nutritional gap, the program also helps to promote Alameda County’s goal of eliminating poverty and hunger by 2026, ACGOV Vision 2026, according to the county’s website. According to Alameda County Supervisor Wilma Chan, these goals are part of a larger effort to ensure that basic food needs are being met while promoting health and wellness.

“By facing forward and anticipating Alameda County’s greatest challenges, goals we once thought unachievable—such as eliminating poverty and hunger—are now within our grasp,” Chan said on the county’s website.

According to data from Healthy Alameda County, the county currently has a 15.2 percent rate of child food insecurity, which is defined as limited availability of nutritionally adequate foods or uncertain ability to acquire these foods. Through ACGOV Vision 2026, the county is hoping to lower this percentage to zero.

The ACSSA lunch program is open to all students ages 18 and under, and the ACSSA is the only social services agency in the state to offer this type of service, according to Director Lori Cox.

“I am proud that the ACSSA is the only social services agency throughout the State of California to offer the (U.S. Department of Agriculture) summer meals program at our County offices, where so many parents bring their children to access our services,” Cox said in Fogel’s email. “This program helps to ensure that we are meeting the immediate nutritional needs of children.” 

Similar efforts are being spearheaded in Berkeley, where students in the Berkeley Unified School District who qualify may receive free or reduced-price lunches, according to the district’s website. In addition to the services offered by the ACSSA, BUSD has launched its own program to provide meals during the summer for minors until Aug. 21.

Sponsored by BUSD’s Nutrition Services department, the program serves free breakfast at 9 a.m. and lunch at 12:30 p.m. at Washington Elementary School and Berkeley Arts Magnet at Whitter School, according to the district’s website. Additionally, at Berkeley High School, breakfast will be served at 9 a.m. and lunch at noon until July 19.

Contact Sydney Hilbush at [email protected]