Before beginning a summer meal program, it is important to secure support from library leadership and staff. Any new service may provoke questions or apprehension among staff or leadership which merit thoughtful consideration. CLA can provide assistance in responding to questions, and other pages on this site provide information about the value and impact of public library summer meal programs.
Ensure that everyone has a voice and feels informed about the program, to help reassure staff members–especially those who will be directly impacted by the program–to help them feel that they have ownership of the program. Talk with staff about what the program might look like, how it will be planned and implemented, and who will carry out different tasks. Discuss project goals for the library system as a whole and for the individual branch.
Provide training — in partnership with your meal sponsor, and within the library too, if needed. Be open about the challenges that the project might bring and engage everyone in working together to meet those challenges. Discuss common concerns and questions around the program. These include (a) community need — it is important to remember that you cannot tell by looking at someone, whether or not they are in need of the meal service, and (b) food wastage — some meal sponsors have regulations mandating that uneaten food is thrown out at the end of the day, which can be a concern for staff, volunteers, and families. It is important that everyone understands the reason for the program regulations and is ready to implement them sensitively.
Although summer meal programs provide lunches for children and teens, Lunch at the Library should not be seen exclusively as a youth services project; the program engages families with the library and is a project for the entire branch or library. It can be a good idea for support staff, branch managers, or administrative staff to lead the project if they are less busy during the summer than frontline youth services staff. Accordingly, everyone should have the opportunity to be involved in planning and preparation. This includes janitorial and facilities staff who may be impacted by the volume of families and meal service items in the library. Volunteers are an integral part of the program, and any volunteer coordinator staff should also be included in the planning process.