Lunch at the Library Programs Are Great Opportunities to Get Georgia Reading

Summer is a critical time for children and many lose ground academically while school is out.

Higher-income families often fill the summer with educational experiences through camps, trips, and museum visits. But children in low-income families who lack access to these opportunities—and the subsidized meals they receive at school—lose an average of two months in reading achievement each summer.

To address these barriers, the Georgia Department of Early Care and Learning (DECAL) and the Georgia Department of Education (GaDOE) created a partnership with the Georgia Public Library Service to create lunch at the library in 2014.

According to DECAL, the program is growing. In summer 2015, DECAL served 5.7 million meals during the summer months, which was a 24 percent increase from summer 2014. Statewide, DECAL and GaDOE served 9.5 million meals this past summer, which was approximately an 18 percent increase. Most importantly, summer meals were served at approximately 45 libraries statewide this past summer, compared to 12 libraries in 2014. Pictured at right is lunch at the library in Villa Rica, summer 2015.

This effort provides nutritious meals to children in 22 Georgia counties that previously had no summer meal programs, utilizing the departments’ separate USDA Summer Food Program funding streams. And, by delivering those meals at local public libraries, they were able to connect children with literacy programming to keep them on track, addressing a critical Access challenge.

The partners hope to continue to expand the reach of this collaboration until all eligible children in Georgia have access to the meals and programming to support their growing bodies and developing minds.