June 13th was a very important day for many children in Billings, Montana. Last Wednesday marked the beginning of Billings Public Schools’ Summer Food Service Program, AKA lunch in park 2012. For many low-income children and their families, it will be a day to celebrate because, sadly, hunger does not take a summer vacation.
For many children, the end of the school year is the beginning of a summer filled with fun and relaxation. However, for a significant number of families in Montana and across the USA, summer is an especially difficult time of year. During the summer months, children from low-income families do not have access to school breakfast or lunch and their families may have a hard time putting enough nutritious food on the table. In these situations, Summer Food Service Programs (SFSP) can fill a critical nutrition gap.
In his weekly column kicking off the Second Annual National Summer Food Service Program Week (June 11th to 15th)), Secretary of Agriculture Tom Vilsack explained the importance of USDA’s summer meals for kids. “Proper nutrition is critical for a child’s ability to learn, grow, and be ready to achieve their dreams – and hunger is one of the most severe roadblocks to the learning process. Lack of nutrition during the summer months may set up a cycle for poor performance once school begins again and can make children more prone to illness and other health issues year-round.”
Thanks to Billings Education Foundation, generous donors, and dozens of volunteers, for six weeks this summer hungry kids in Billings, Montana, can feed their minds as well as their bodies during lunch. Reading Rocks provides guest storytellers, individual readers, and free books to children across the city. This past week, to kick off Reading Rocks for 2012, members of Billings Action for Healthy Kids (BAFHK), a local coalition advocating for children’s nutrition and fitness, were guest storytellers. They read deliciously fun books about eating smart and talked with kids and their families about tasty foods choices that help you grow strong and stay well.
Eating at home or taking a picnic to the park for your kids this summer? Reading about nutrition can help them enjoy good nutrition too. Here are four books recommended by this summer’s BAFHK guest readers. You can check them out at your local library, favorite bookstore, or online booksellers.
- I Will Never Not Ever Eat A Tomato, by Lauren Child
- Growing Vegetable Soup, by Lois Ehlert
- Mama Provi and The Pot of Rice, by Sylvia Rosa-Cassanova
- Bread and Jam for Francis, Russell Hoban
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