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Fewer Yuba-Sutter youth fed by schools' summer meals
- Andros Karperos, through Aug. 3, from 7:30-8:30 am. and 11:30 a.m. -1:15 p.m.
- River Valley High, through July 11, 7:15-7:45 a.m. and 10:45-11:30 a.m.
- Bridge Street Elementary, July 9 to Aug. 3, from 7:45-8:15 a.m. and 11:15-11:45 a.m.
- Bernard Children’s Center, through Aug. 14, from 8-8:30 a.m., 11:45 a.m. to 12:15 p.m. and 3-3:15 p.m.
- Mahal Plaza, through Aug. 14, 8-8:30 a.m. and noon-12:30 p.m.
- Riverbend Elementary, through Aug. 3, from 8-8:45 a.m. and 11:30 a.m. - noon
- Central Gaither, July 9 to Aug. 3, 8-8:20 a.m. and 11:30 -11:45 a.m.
- King Avenue, through Aug. 3, 8-8:20 a.m. and 11:30-11:50 a.m.
- Lincoln Elementary, through Aug. 3, 8-8:30 a.m. and 11:30 a.m. to noon
- Tierra Buena Elementary, through Aug. 3., 8-8:30 a.m. and 11:30 a.m. to noon
- Live Oak Smart Start, July 9 to Aug. 3, 8-8:20 a.m. and 11:30-11:45 a.m.
Not in Yuba City? Check with your school or district office to see if free meals for children are available near you.
Summer can be a hungry time for Yuba-Sutter children.
With school out, availability to free and reduced price meals can be limited. The burden shifts to families to use summer school programs and visit schools that serve meals or feed children themselves.
A report released last month by California Food Policy Advocates sheds light on a shrinking number of summer school meals, including in Yuba and Sutter counties, and claims a lack of summer school is the cause.
Yuba County ranked seventh lowest among 58 California counties for participation, with about 450 daily meals served in July 2011. In Marysville Joint Unified, the only summer food access is through summer school.
"It has been that way for 15-plus years," said Nutrition Services Director Mary Driscoll. "When I first started, we had a huge summer program, but because of all the budget issues over the past few years, it has dwindled down."
Marysville Joint Unified once ran summer school at all elementary sites, one intermediate school and one high school. Today, only six sites operate summer feeding programs. About 930 students are enrolled this summer — not all of whom eat meals — and represent a mere fraction of the 5,500 students who eat during the school year.
To be ranked seventh lowest among all state counties was no surprise to Driscoll.
"Our summer program is little or nothing," she said.
The district does not offer open summer feeding, where any children 18 and under are welcome to come eat breakfast and lunch for free.
Butte County Office of Education's Migrant Education, which sponsors summer feeding in Sutter County, tried too late to partner with Marysville Joint Unified this year, but the possibility will be considered for next year, Driscoll said.
"All these studies have been done that show a lot of the kids we feed that are hungry in our free and reduced option are not getting these meals during the summer," she said. "The parents obviously wouldn't be in the program if they could afford to buy those meals."
Butte County Office of Education is feeding about 1,300 kids a day in Sutter County, said Food Service Supervisor Spencer Springer. Meals are prepared at the Andros Karperos and River Valley High School kitchens and then taken to other schools, where children eagerly line up for their lunch and breakfast.
"I'm hungry like a lion," said Leticia Rivera, 9. "You need food and energy. It helps to learn."
Lunchtime watermelon and chimichangas are her favorites, while her friend Alyssa Delariva, 9, prefers the hamburgers and melon.
"They make the best food here," she said. "There is so many kids and they like it a lot."
At Andros Karperos on Friday, one boy took a giant chomp from a slice of honeydew before peeling the lid off a sherbet cup and taking an inquisitive lick. Around him, students squirted ketchup on hamburgers and slid burritos out of plastic film before it was time to head home.
Sending students home from school without a meal is never a desirable option, Springer said.
"How and where will the kids eat?" he said. "We want to make sure they do."
The California Food Policy Advocates' report incorrectly states that in July 2011, no low-income children in Sutter County who participated in free or reduced-price school meal programs during the academic year were served by summer meal programs.
That is hardly the case, said Rita Kesler, summer food program manager with the Butte County program. Because the neighboring education office partners with Sutter County and sponsors its meals, the meals count for Butte County, which had the fifth-highest participation rate in the state, according to the report.
In summer 2011, more than 24,400 lunches were served in Yuba City and nearly 2,100 lunches in Live Oak.
In addition, nearly all sites sponsored by the Butte County program are open. Meals are provided to all children for free and without any pre-registration or documentation, and are hosted throughout Yuba City and Live Oak.
"It always seems like Yuba City Unified and Sutter County is on the cutting edge," Springer said. "We are always one step ahead. We do a great job of feeding these kids."
CONTACT Ashley Gebb at firstname.lastname@example.org or 749-4783. Find her on Facebook at /ADagebb or on Twitter at @ADagebb.