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Lunch at the Library in California: brief program overview (5:40 mins)

For the Community

For many families, the stability, nutrition, and education provided during the school year ends when school lets out for summer. During the summer vacation, children and teens in low-income families often have reduced or limited access to healthy food, learning and enrichment programs, and safe places to congregate and struggle to have their basic needs met.

Only 17% of California school children who receive free or reduced price lunches during the school year also receive free lunches during the summer. In 2018, nearly two million school children who were eligible for summer lunches did not get them. []

As resource-rich, accessible, and trusted community hubs, California’s public libraries are natural spaces for serving free summer meals to children and teens.

Lunch at the Library provides children and teens with meals, summer reading programs, and other activities that support learning, health, and wellness. It brings new families to the library where staff can connect adult family members with essential resources and services, and it sparks and supports community collaboration.


For Libraries

Lunch at the Library provides public libraries with training, technical assistance, and grant funds to help establish successful public library summer meal sites in California. The program:

  • connects libraries with meal sponsors (which provide the meals that are served at program sites) and the USDA’s Summer Food Service Program (which reimburses meal sponsors for the cost of the meals that are served);
  • provides resources, technical assistance, and training on topics such as establishing a new program, program development, volunteers recruitment and management, partnerships, community outreach, and funding;
  • conducts program evaluation and maintain statewide data on public library summer meal programs;
  • makes connections between library summer meal programs and other citywide efforts to address hunger and learning loss, and facilitates intergovernmental collaborations to help create a strong out-of-school-time infrastructure; and
  • supports a statewide network of libraries offering summer meal programs to encourage communication, mentorship, and the sharing of best practices.


Watch More of the Story

Lunch at the Library in California: program overview (12:06 mins)

Please note: The Lunch at the Library resources reflect the viewpoints and experiences of those involved with Lunch at the Library, exclusively. Questions regarding USDA summer nutrition program policies and procedures should always be directed to the state agency administering the program or USDA.