"The summer meals program at Valley Hi-North Laguna was nothing short of transformational."
Libraries are popular meal sites
- In 2013, 24,458 lunches and 432 snacks were served to children and teens at Fresno County Public Library, Los Angeles Public Library, Oakland Public Library, Sacramento Public Library, San Diego County Library, and San Francisco Public Library. Libraries served meals for between 23 and 41 days during the summer.
- Fresno Equal Opportunities Commission has reported that the library is among its most successful summer meal sites.
- As well as eating a healthy lunch, children and their families take part in a variety of enrichment programs that range from storytelling, writing workshops, and nutrition classes, to gardening activities, soccer games, ping pong, and zumba.
"Our frontline staff (especially at the main information desk and also our security officers) did a great job of letting families know about the program."
"Staff actively participated in outdoor activities with students for example, played t-ball, miniature golf, jump rope."
- Lunch at the Library attracts new families to the library.
- Library regulars stop exhibiting signs of hunge and show improved attention, concentration, and behavior at the meal sites.
- Families participate in summer reading and obtain library cards during the program.
- Teen volunteers have the opportunity to develop workforce readiness skills.
- Llibrary staff are able to spend time with one another while participating in the program and spend more time engaged in activities with patrons.
- Lunch at the Library creates new community partnerships. Librarians and meal sponsors are natural partners; meal sponsors appreciate librarians' attention to detail, their strict adherence to the regulations that govern the USDA food program, and the popularity of meal sites with families. Libraries appreciate their meal sponsors' responsiveness and the comprehensive training they receive.
- Lunch at the Library receives support from library administration, and from the boards of both the libraries and meal providers, thus increasing visibility for the library and its programs among key influencers in the community.
- The program generates interest from the local media, which helps raise awareness of library services and food insecurity in California and increased visibility.
"I really think this is a game changer in terms of showing what we can do with the right attitude, the right partners, and the right volunteers."
"I believe the increase [in summer reading sign-ups] has to do with the summer lunch program and people learning about all the different services the library has to offer."
"Our greatest success in working with the meal provider was how well they prepared us for serving meals."
"The promotion and publicity was great. We had a wonderful response from the media... [They] helped draw people to the program and create an understanding of why we were offering a lunch program."
Feedback from families
Lunch at the Library families know they can get help and essential resources at the library. They tell us that they know they can read books and magazines, borrow books, get lunch, talk to a librarian, learn to read better, and find information at the library.1 Families also feel healthy during the program: they tell us that they feel good, happy, safe, relaxed, and respected. A recent study from the Pew Research Center2 states that while most Americans know where their local library is, many are unfamiliar with all the services libraries offer. Lunch at the Library is a great opportunity to introduce families to the library's services and resources, as well as helping them feel and become more healthy.
“The lunch program was great. We spent more time at the library and learned about all the services due to the lunch program.”
“I would like to thank everyone for helping me learn to read, eat, and feel safe.”
“It’s just nice to be a part of a program that all-around cares :-)”
"[This program makes me] feel like the community cares about us."
Libraries are natural spaces for serving meals to hungry children during the summer
Libraries are community spaces at the heart of the neighborhood, they welcome all, and they provide resources and programs, free of charge, to community members. Lunch at the Library programs keep kids fed, healthy, and engaged while school is out.
"The project successfully linked healthy meals to summer reading and active play. [It] expanded everyone's ideas of what happens at a library."
1. Results based on a survey of 1,023 children, teens, and adults during summer 2013.
2. See .
Lunch at the Library is a project of the California Library Association and California Summer Meal Coalition and is funded by a grant from the David and Lucile Packard Foundation.
Photo courtesy of Alameda County Community Food Bank, City of Oakland Human Services, and Oakland Public Library.