HANFORD — Some Kings County children rely on school breakfasts and lunches to stave off hunger. Come summer, they can lose that safety net.
That's where the Kings Community Action Organization comes in. The organization is providing free meals for children during the summer.
At select locations, KCAO will serve breakfast and lunch through the Summer Food Services Program to children who are 18 or younger Monday through Friday in Hanford, Lemoore and Corcoran. Most sites will serve meals until Aug. 5.
“There is a lot of food insecurity among children during the summer,” said KCAO Nutrition Education and Hunger Prevention Program Director Debra Wood.
Wood said many children from low-income families have trouble finding ways to eat when school is out for summer since most receive free or reduced-price meals during the school year.
“In the summer we want to make sure they are receiving that option for food,” she said.
In Kings County, 21 percent of the population falls under the federal poverty level. About 29.2 percent of the children suffer from food insecurity, meaning they may not know if they have enough to eat the next day, Wood said.
Wood said the program served 3,681 breakfast sand 15,756 lunches last month at its eight sites.
At some sites, roughly 500 to 600 kids show up per week for a meal, averaging to about 50 to 100 kids a day, Wood said.
“Some will come every day,” she said. “They can call… usually what we do is we try to direct them to the closest site.”
KCAO Youth L.E.A.D. Recreation Supervisor Savino Perico, said he serves up to 90 kids a day at Coe Park on Douty Street which is one of the sites the program serves at.
He said some of the kids are part of a program called Youth L.E.A.D which already serves breakfast and lunch at the park through the food program. Youth L.E.A.D. offers activities to students during the summer.
“[The food program] is important because some people can’t afford to buy food for their kids,” he said.
He said some families in the area rely on the program to feed their own kids when school is out for the summer.
The food program tries to give healthy meal choices for breakfast and lunch like milk, cereal, fruit, muffins and salads, Wood said.
KCAO administers the program, which is federally-funded through the U.S. Department of Agriculture.
“I think it is a very needed program in the area,” she said. “When young people are developing, they need proper nutrition. I see great value in this program.”