Rep. Suzan DelBene (WA-01) recently joined YMCA to pass out free lunches to children of low-income families at the Kingsgate Library in Kirkland.
The Summer Meals Program runs during 50 days in the summer, giving free lunch to as many as 60 children each day. The meals are for children who are on free or reduced lunches during the school year, but don’t have that option during summer break.
“Kids need balanced meals every day,” DelBene said. “I came to see how the program [is going] and what parents like and dislike about the program.”
Any child can show up for a free lunch and participate in arts and crafts activities that YMCA and library staff host. Library staff said they leave the program open to everyone so parents don’t have to worry about sticking out or being stigmatized. Staff added that they’ve received positive feedback from parents about the program.
DelBene handed out lunches, talked to parents and gave out some free book during the free lunch event on Aug. 15. She has also volunteered for Summer Meals programs at Wagner Elementary in Monroe, Juanita View Apartments in Kirkland and the Snohomish Aquatic Center during her time in Congress.
“As a legislator, we need to understand what works and what we need to change in the community,” DelBene said. “The best way for me to know that is to go out and listen to the community.”
DelBene also handed out granola bars as a snack for parents to eat while their children have lunch and read.
About one in five children regularly go hungry in Western Washington, according to Food Lifeline and 43 percent of Washington students receive free or reduced price meals through the National School Lunch and Breakfast Program.
The Kingsgate Library Summer Meals program helps about 850 kids every summer, giving them a free lunch and book. Throughout the state, summer meals programs have helped feed nearly 50,000 children.
The program runs Monday through Friday each week of summer, except on Sept. 3, which is Labor Day.
DelBene has showed support in Congress for feeding children as she cosponsored the Stop Child Summer Hunger Act. Additionally, during the 2014 Farm Bill, she helped Washington state receive almost $90,000 in grants to help better connect school cafeterias with local farmers and growers.
“It’s great to see everyone here,” DelBene said. “Kids who get free lunch at school don’t get that throughout the summer, even though they may need it.”