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Local organizations remain actively working to combat the food insecurity crisis, as the Office of the State Superintendent of Education (OSSE), Department of Parks & Recreation (DPR) and local nonprofit organizations continue to distribute summer meals to provide for youth left vulnerable during summer break.
According to D.C. Hunger Solutions, roughly 77% of D.C. children heavily relied on reduced or free school meals to meet their nutritional needs prior to the COVID-19 health pandemic. These numbers continue to raise concern, encouraging District agencies to help feed economically challenged families.
“Within the scope of the summer DC Youth Meal Program, OSSE defines a high-need area as any location where youth no longer have access to daily school meals. Our goal is to ensure seamless year-round access to meals for all children. We do find the heaviest concentration of summer meal sites are located in Wards 7 and 8. Additionally, there are no-cost meal sites located and utilized in every ward,” OSSE stated.
Kicking off the week of June 27, OSSE premiered their summer meal program for 2022. The agency’s food program has recognized the most economically depressed portions of the city, deliberately targeting those youth “struggling to receive healthy meals at home outside of the school system.”
OSSE provided meals are offered daily across various DPR centers, public charter schools, churches, pools and summer day camps, with additional mobile meal sites in Wards 7 and 8.
But although District agencies have taken the lead in administering meal assistance across the city, local nonprofit organizations are also filling in the cracks to feed local students residing in financially disadvantaged homes throughout the most impoverished neighborhoods East of the River.
This summer, DC Central Kitchen Trucks (working in conjunction with the DC Food Project), will route through Wards 7 and 8 with numerous meal distribution locations including Houston Elementary School, Rosedale Recreation Center, Bishop John T. Walker School for Boys and Cascade Park Apartments.
DC Central Kitchen strategically prepares healthy meal choices for program recipients including menu items including local BBQ chicken drums, cumin lime chicken wraps, turkey club sandwiches, and an abundance of fresh summer fruits including watermelon and peaches.
“Our meals reflect the latest nutritional guidance for youth and are carefully designed by our chefs and dietitians,” said a DC Central Kitchen official. “We feature fresh, local fruits and vegetables purchased directly from dozens of local farms and our menus reflect years of feedback from schoolchildren about the flavor profiles and ingredients they like best through our cafeteria taste tests.”
“By combining kids’ preferences with what our local farmers can grow right here in our region, we offer a unique combination of cultural relevance, environmental sustainability and good nutrition in every meal,” the official said.
The above-mentioned programs continue to not only service District youth but to also make the process simpler for residents to access, as there are no sign-ups, registrations or identifications required for those in need to receive a meal.
“These difficult times mean lots of families rely on us for many different reasons. We serve children in grand-families, children of excluded workers, children whose families rely on SNAP and WIC but whose benefits don’t go far enough, and we serve youth who have had to become caretakers in their own homes during the pandemic,” said the DC Central Kitchen.