by Joy Cichewicz, Downtown Branch Manager, Ypsilanti District Library
Last summer all Ypsilanti District Library (YDL) locations were part of the Summer Food Service program for the first time. We called the program Lunch and Listen, provided lunches and read books to the kids.
We got involved by calling the Michigan Department of Education (MDE) and we were told that they were looking for more sites to serve summer lunches and that Food Gatherers was already working with them to provide lunches to more sites in Washtenaw County; YDL could just become one of their sites. Food Gatherers managed all the federal and state administrative paperwork and money handling, made lunches that met the required nutritional criteria AND delivered bagged complete lunches to us five days a week.
Sites were required to have staff go through a short training session and provide daily paperwork with lunch counts, a place to put the lunches when they were delivered, post the required signage, etc. All was very doable. At YDL all youth staff were trained to follow the procedures but in most cases we then trained interns and volunteers who did a lot of the actual serving of lunches and cleanup. Usually youth staff, or in one case a board member, would read the books, sometimes reading for 20 minutes or sometimes a whole hour because kids would WANT to hear stories that long. At our medium-sized downtown location where I work, we served lunches Monday through Friday for one hour and served 25-45 kids ranging in age from from 0-18. We also tied in other programs, almost entirely educational in some way, before or after the lunches since we already had kids at the library.
What did we notice? At the downtown location we have always had many tweens and teens that come during the summer and spend the entire day at the library. Some parents would bring smaller kids to the library and be there for a little too long. Kids would get more and more rowdy as the day went on, frequently asking us for food and getting bored. This year, there was less disruptive behavior, more engagement in library activities. Yes, we were definitely busier than ever but it was a "good" busy.
This year we are doing it again and we're adding a morning snack.
You can see a bit of PR on last year's program at:
This is a broader article on other libraries providing lunches:
Visit the Michigan Department of Education website for more information on this year's Summer Food Service Program (SFSP).
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