Lunch at the Library

Community Need

Lunch at the Library helps California’s children and teens stay nourished and engaged while school is out.

During the summer, children and teens in low-income families often struggle to have their basic needs met. For many, the summer months mean reduced or limited access to healthy food, learning opportunities, and safe places to congregate and be active. Only 17% of California school children who receive free or reduced price lunches during the school year also receive free lunches during the summer. In 2018, nearly two million school children who were eligible for summer lunches did not get them.1

Photo of two young boys with trays of food in a large room full of people at tables.

Libraries Addressing the Need

California’s public libraries are resource-rich, accessible, and trusted community hubs, and they are natural spaces for serving free summer meals to children and teens.

The Lunch at the Library program provides children and teens with meals, summer reading programs, and other activities that support learning, health, and wellness. It also brings new families to the library where staff can connect adult family members with essential resources and services.

Lunch at the Library provides training, technical assistance, and grants that enable California public libraries to:

  • Establish summer meal sites in low-income communities through the USDA Summer Food Service program.
  • Provide learning opportunities and wraparound services with the meals.
  • Provide teens with volunteer opportunities that help them develop social-emotional and workforce readiness skills.
  • Develop partnerships that strengthen community-wide efforts to address hunger.
Photo of a young girl smiling at the camera while holding a fruit cup. A small water bottle and a carton of chocolate milk sit in front of her on a table.

Impact: Summer 2019

219 public library summer meal sites served over 289,000 meals

Libraries took pop-up programming to 115 community meal sites

13% of families didn’t get lunch anywhere else but the library

Libraries presented over 8,000 learning and enrichment programs for over 260,000 participants at their summer meal sites