Without the constancy of school, summer creates a void in students lives, and that can even extend to the food they are eating.

School districts across the county and additional organizations are looking to restore the balance by making healthy breakfasts and lunches available to any students at schools, parks or libraries through summer food programs.

“It’s a great, safe place to go where you can have the kids go and enjoy a nice healthy meal,” Marti Woolford, a child nutrition advocate with Utahns Against Hunger, said.

This year there are about 250 places serving food to children 18 and younger scattered across the state, and 27 of them are located in Utah County, according to Utahns Against Hunger. Last summer, more than 1 million meals were served to kids in Utah.

“When school gets out we know kids lose access to school nutrition programs, so the summer food program is designed to fill that gap,” Woolford said. “What is really great is it’s the same folks who are feeding kids during the school year feeding them during the summer.”

Many of the locations are at schools, but some are at parks, libraries or splash pads. Woolford said the feelings of community that thrives around summer meal programs are special.

Parents, babysitters, grandparents and kids can go to any location for a nutritious meal.

“What I love about summer food is ... the sense of community that happens at a summer food site,” she said. “Just seeing families connecting and sitting on picnic blankets and eating. It’s really great. It’s a community-spirited environment and knowing kids have access to a nutritious meal and it’s a safe place is important.”

The program serves a vital need for students, Laura Larsen, child nutrition director with Provo City School District, said.

“There are many children where this is the only meal they have access to in the summer. For a lot of children, hunger is a reality,” she said.

Most of the meal locations in Provo serve both breakfast and lunch around 8 or 8:30 a.m. and 11:30 a.m., respectively.

Larsen said the school district works hard months before the end of school to promote and share the information about locations, hours and opportunities for summer meals.

“It’s a real benefit for the community,” she said.

Those that are looking for details on the locations nearest them can look online or text “FOOD” to 877-877.

Shelby Slade covers community events, issues and stories for the Daily Herald.

Shelby Slade is a reporter for the Daily Herald who covers crime and the southern part of Utah County.

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