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SLO Food Bank Coalition's Lovin' Lunchbox summer program will help needy kids for sixth year



Let’s not mince words: Food is good. It’s great, magnificent one might say. For some, eating meals or munching on snacks is the highlight of their day. But for others, just finding out where their next meal is coming from is less magnificent, and more distressing.

The U.S. Department of Agriculture (USDA) defines food insecurity as a household with a limited or uncertain access to adequate food, while hunger is an individual condition that may be the result of food insecurity.

CLEAR EYES, FULL STOMACHS:  The SLO Food Bank Coalition is holding the Summer Food Program for the sixth time this June. - PHOTO COURTESY OF THE SLO FOOD BANK COALITION
  • CLEAR EYES, FULL STOMACHS: The SLO Food Bank Coalition is holding the Summer Food Program for the sixth time this June.

Households that are food insecure often worry that their food will run out, or else not last through the week. They may also worry that they won’t be able to afford to get a balanced meal, and the majority of people have skipped more than one meal per day for more than three months.

According to Feeding America, in California an estimated one in seven households are food insecure. Additionally, one in four children go to bed hungry each night.

In San Luis Obispo County, there are 44,000 residents that are at risk of being hungry or food insecure, and the majority of those at risk are children under 18.

To help combat this, the SLO Food Bank Coalition will be holding the Summer Food Service Program, called Lovin’ Lunchbox, for the sixth year in a row. The program enables kids from kindergarten to high school who live in food insecure households to receive free meals and snacks at designated sites throughout the county for the whole summer. All of the meals follow the USDA nutrition guidelines, and no paperwork is required to receive them.

“Over 16,000 K through 12 children in San Luis Obispo County participate in the free and reduced-rate meal program during the school year,” Andrea Keisler, the Children’s Program manager for the coalition, said. “During the summer, these children may not have access to healthy meals during a time of year when they may struggle to put food on the table.”

Going through life with inadequate nutrition and meals can be especially detrimental to young children, whose bodies and minds are still developing and thus need all the nutritional food they can get. Studies done by Feeding America show that children who experience food insecurity are at a higher risk for developmental disorders such as obesity. This seems counter-intuitive, but if a parent has to choose between feeding their child cheap fast food, or not feeding them at all, most parents choose the former. Additionally, children from low-income, food insecure households have a higher risk of learning disabilities and mental health problems, as well as poor grades and behavioral problems.

Most of the children who deal with these problems rely on school lunches to get their food, and sometimes that meal will be the only food they have all day. Come summer, that safety net has been ripped away from them, and the Food Bank Coalition wants to give it back.

“The program, with the help of community and school partners, has grown from seven lunch sites in North County to 28 locations countywide this coming summer,” Keisler said. “Additionally, the program has developed into a summer meals program offering not just lunch, but also breakfast or snacks at some locations as well.”

The kickoff event for the Lovin’ Lunchbox program starts on June 15, and will have meal sites in San Luis Obispo, Paso Robles, Los Osos, Morro Bay, Oceano, San Simeon, and more. For more information about the program and meal sites, visit

Fast fact

Summer is fast approaching, and that means long days of unstructured freedom for youth, and regular work hours for working parents. But the San Luis Obispo Regional Rideshare has a solution for gaggles of kids to get from point A to point B safely. All summer long, K through 12 students can ride for free on any fixed route with their school IDs. Youth Ride Free program applies to the Regional Transit Authority, SLO Transit, South County Area Transit, Paso Express, and Morro Bay. For more information about the program, visit

Intern Adriana Catanzarite cooked up this week’s Strokes and Plugs. Send your business and nonprofit news to [email protected].

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