Thousands of children in Oakland who rely on free and low-cost meals during the school year will have access to free, nutritious meals over the summer break, Oakland city officials said this week.
The city of Oakland, Oakland Unified School District and the Alameda County Community Food Bank are offering joint meal programs this summer to provide those children with a free breakfast, lunch and afternoon snack each weekday, officials said.
City officials say some 20,000 schoolchildren depend on free and low-cost meals during the school year, but that many local families struggle to provide those meals over the summer.
"In a moment where one-third of Oakland's children are living in poverty, the summer lunch program is critical to ensure that every child has enough to eat," Mayor Jean Quan said in a prepared statement. "The agencies and individuals that make this program possible are the ones at the forefront of making sure Oakland's children won't have to worry about where their next meal will come from."
Children can find free lunches and afternoon snacks provided by the city at more than 80 sites throughout Oakland, including community and faith-based organizations and recreation centers, starting Monday through Aug. 17.
Oakland Public Libraries and OUSD's free summer lunch program in partnership with the county food bank will begin Monday at 10 libraries throughout the city, through August 17.
OUSD will also provide free breakfast and lunch to children at more than 50 schools district-wide starting June 27.
School district Superintendent Tony Smith stressed the need for such programs to give students the basic fuel they need to succeed. "If we expect our children to thrive, we must provide conditions that allow them to develop and achieve at high levels," Smith said in a statement. "At an absolute minimum, this means ensuring access to nutrition and health services that provide the physical foundation required to learn and grow. If we want our children to reach the goals we've set for them in school, in career and in life, we must ensure that these first-order needs are met."
There are no program requirements, enrollment or paperwork to take part in the program. All children 18 years old and under may visit any participating location this summer to receive a free meal.
To find the nearest free meal, local residents are encouraged to call the Alameda County Community Food Bank's Emergency Food Helpline at 1-800-870-FOOD.