By Gwen Guerke, Communications Coordinator
Libraries have evolved into community centers. Yes, they are still a place to find books and magazines, but thanks to supportive directors, some libraries offer free lunch to their youngest patrons through the Food Bank of Delaware’s Summer Food Service Program (SFSP).
One in five children in Delaware live in poverty. To bridge the nutrition gap during the summer, this program reaches out to low-income children to participate in free or reduced lunch programs in school.
It’s funded by the U.S. Department of Agriculture and administered by the state Department of Education.
As of July 17, 27,243 meals were distributed through the Summer Nutrition Program.
The meals are packed by volunteers. (Thank you!)
Both the Delmar and Selbyville libraries participate in the program, and library directors at both sites say attendance varies from just 2-3 children to more than 20 some days.
Neither Jessica Webb, Delmar’s youth services librarian, nor Kelly Kline, Selbyville’s library director, can explain the attendance inconsistencies.
Both would like to increase participation, and both plan activities around the lunch time in an attempt to draw in more children.
Lunch is served on Wednesdays and Thursdays at the Delmar program site in town across from the fire hall. Due to impending construction, the library’s collection and main services have been moved to a temporary site on U.S. 13.
“I plan an indoor activity to go with lunch. Today is Jump Bunch, and 60 kids came the last time. We had just eight today,” Webb said.
The situation is similar across the state.
“Maybe it’s the heat,” said Kline, noting that most of the children who enjoy the service are able to walk to the library.
Selbyville serves lunch Monday through Friday, and Shannon, the library’s AmeriCorps VISTA volunteer, joins the kids with a planned activity.
On Tuesday, she encouraged the attendees to participate in an educational computer game. After lunch, the kids were going to try marshmallow engineering, a project designed to build a structure out of marshmallows and spaghetti.
“We call it Kids’ Kafe. We are creating some branding to make it more appealing,” Kline said.
Shannon also created a comfortable ambiance with tablecloths, and also served apples and fruit cups from baskets.
“This is a nice opportunity for me. I enjoy it,” she said.
For more information on the Food Bank of Delaware’s programs, visit www.fbd.org.