OnCentral | Reporting on health and quality of life in South LA

Where South LA kids can get a free lunch when school's out this summer

Over the summer months, kids can get free lunches five days a week at participating local parks, community centers and churches.
Over the summer months, kids can get free lunches five days a week at participating local parks, community centers and churches.
Maya Sugarman/KPCC

School's out for many K-12 students in South L.A., which means they may also be out of a free meal. With almost 80 percent of Los Angeles Unified School District (LAUSD) students qualifying for free or reduced price meals, the summer can leave a hole in their daily diet.

So local and federal organizations have launched lunch programs to bridge the three-month gap and provide needy kids with a daily meal. Scroll down to see a list of locations.

The Los Angeles Regional Food Bank began serving lunches on Monday at 86 different locations throughout the city. The food bank gives out about 3,500 meals per day, at local libraries, community centers, Salvation Army locations and summer schools.

“For these kids, the lunch may be their first and last meal of the day,” said Maricelle Ranola, the Food Bank’s nutrition director, in a statement. “When they are enjoying something as simple as an apple – something that people who are not food insecure take for granted – it is an amazing sight.”

While participating libraries provide a free lunch to any child who wants it, other food bank locations require students to be enrolled in a program to be eligible for the free meal.

The City of L.A.'s Department of Recreation and Parks also provides free summer lunches to anyone up to age 18. Those 19 or older who have a disability and are enrolled in a school or private, non-profit program are also eligible. This lunch program began Monday and is serving meals at about 100 different parks throughout the city.

The parks program will continue until August 9 and serve nearly 5,000 meals per day. Lunches are available five days a week and feature "nutritious and balanced meals."

And LAUSD isn't completely closing their kitchens for the summer. It expects to serve about one million meals. All students under the age of 18 are eligible for a free summer lunch served at select area schools.

Although  local organizations are hosting these summer lunch programs, many of them are bankrolled by federal funds. The United States Department of Agriculture (USDA)  sponsors a Summer Food Service Program that partners with community and educational organizations to feed 3.5 million children across the country every day.

"When school is out during the summer months, many families struggle to feed their children even one nutritious meal a day," said Agriculture Secretary Tom Vilsack in a statement. "Government cannot address this challenge alone, which is why, this week, we join our valued partners to raise awareness about the nutrition gap low-income children face when schools close for the summer.

Most participating locations serve meals between between 11:30 a.m. and 12:30 p.m., but exact times may vary depending on the site.

Locations in and around South L.A. serving free summer lunches include: 

  • Fred Roberts Recreation Center: 4700 South Honduras St., Los Angeles, 90011
  • Gilbert Lindsay Community Center: 425 E. 42nd Place, Los Angeles, 90011
  • Central Recreation Center: 1357 E. 22nd St., Los Angeles, 90011
  • Ross Snyder Recreation Center: 1501 East 41st St., CA 90011
  • Downtown's Central Library: 630 W. 5th St., Los Angeles, 90071
  • Jefferson High School: 1319 E 41st St, Los Angeles, 90011
  • Manual Arts High School: 4131 S Vermont Ave., Los Angeles, 90037
  • Clinton Middle School: 3500 S Hill St, Los Angeles, 90007

For more information on summer lunch programs or to find out what time lunch is served, contact the location. For more details on the L.A. Food Bank, click here. For a complete list of LAUSD schools participating in the free summer lunch program, click here. For a complete list of L.A. parks serving free meals, click here.

Editors Note: The story originally said that students up to age 19 could receive free LAUSD summer lunches. In fact, it is only students up to age 18 that are eligible.