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Summer Lunch: Partnering with Community Agencies

by Melanie A. Lyttle and Shawn D. Walsh on August 4, 2017

There are plenty of libraries around the country who are fortunate to be able to provide food to children in need during the summer. However, if  your library that isn’t able to, it doesn’t mean you can’t be part of feeding children’s minds while someone else fills their stomachs!

Your library may be a good partner for an organization that provides summer lunches. Sometimes these groups are looking for something for the children to do while they are eating or a further incentive for them to come and get lunch. The library can be that draw, especially if it is difficult for the children to get to the library otherwise. In this case, it is the library outside the building. Using a set-up like a boxmobile can allow a library without a dedicated bookmobile or outreach services to circulate books and provide library cards to people. Especially in a community where public transportation is not an option or there are many single car families, bringing the library to lunch may be the children’s only option while school isn’t in session.

In our case, we partner with the local ministerial association, which hands out lunches in two different parks in town. Unfortunately, both locations have only limited foot or bike traffic, but a growing number of families are finding a way to get there each afternoon. Lunch seems to be weather dependent. If it’s nice weather more come for lunch. If it’s raining or cold, hardly anyone comes. However, thanks to the commitment of the church members who hand out lunches everyday, they remind children when the library will be visiting and how great it is that they can take out books.

The ministerial association supports many programs and projects throughout the community to help children and their families be successful, and having the library at their summer lunch program is very much a part of that. It took a while to get everything aligned so the library could partner with them on the lunch program. Part of the challenge was the library works and plans about three to six months ahead of an event whereas the ministerial association didn’t know for sure they were going to be permitted to hand out lunches and at what locations until a few weeks before the program began. They chose where the library was going to visit to make sure it had the greatest impact on the greatest number of children.

Children are coming back from week to week to borrow and return books. They and their parents are getting library cards for the first time. Even for the children who do not borrow books, they stop and talk with the library staff about books or when they saw library staff last in the community. For both the people eating lunch and the people running the program, they are seeing the library as meeting the community where they are and doing what they can to help meet the community’s needs.

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