Summer can be an especially difficult time for hungry Las Vegas children who eat their main meals of the day at school, free through the Federal School Lunch and Breakfast Programs. This summer, the growing problem of hunger in Las Vegas, fueled by hard times and the economic downturn, is getting some much-needed help thanks to Three Square, the largest food bank in Southern Nevada.
Recently, Three Square launched its Summer Food Service Program, which is part of the federal program of the same name. Three Square expects to serve approximately 1,000 meals per day at 11 sites throughout the valley during the summer. These sites include Clark County and Henderson Parks and Recreation facilities, as well as community organizations.
The Summer Food Service is a program of the U.S. Department of Agriculture that fills the gap in the summer for children who rely on free and reduced priced meals during the school year. Clark County School District’s number of children in the free and reduced meal program has grown to 45.5 percent — nearly half of the county’s school children (most of whom do not receive a summer meal, as there aren’t nearly as many sites as schools).
Three Square, the Culinary Training Academy, the Clark County School District and many other organizations work with the Nevada State Department of Education to provide these meals to children at community sites. Children receive the additional benefits of enrichment activities, games, arts and crafts, exercise and even summer school at Summer Food Service Program sites. Every breakfast contains a serving of grain, fruit and milk. Every lunch contains a protein and grain item, two servings of fruits and vegetables and milk.
Three Square is gearing up for the 2009-2010 school year and its BackPack for Kids program. In April 2008, Three Square launched a pilot program with 10 at-risk schools. Today, Three Square has expanded the program to be available to any at-risk schools in the valley.
Three Square purchases snack foods like pudding, granola bars, fruit cups and other nutritious foods, and volunteers pack them into bags that are then discreetly placed into a child’s backpack. This food is enough for the entire weekend.
The BackPack for Kids program closed out the 2008-’09 school year by serving 143 schools. This translates to approximately 3,700 children given a backpack bag of food per week. During the summer, Three Square is providing backpack bags of food to approximately 50 schools, which translates to 1,500 per week.
In order to continue these programs for the men, women and children in the community, Three Square needs support and donations from the community. Find out how to help at www.threesquare.org.