During the academic year, many of Philadelphia’s public school students receive subsidized meals from their school. When summer break rolls around though, where can Philly’s kids get a nutritious daily meal? The answer, as surprising as it may be, is the library!
This summer, three of Philadelphia’s 50+ neighborhood library locations—McPherson Square Library, Ramonita G. de Rodriguez Library, and Queen Memorial Library—have been offering free lunches and snacks to kids and teens 18 and under, as well as to anyone over age 18 enrolled in school programs for persons with disabilities.
These fresh daily meals are provided through the Summer Food Service Program (SFSP), a federally funded program operated nationally by the U.S. Department of Agriculture and administered in Pennsylvania by the Department of Education. Organizations such as recreation centers, churches, and libraries may sponsor the program and provide high quality nutrition to youth in their communities during the summer months.
At the Queen Memorial Library in South Philadelphia’s Point Breeze neighborhood, approximately forty children are fed each day through the SFSP, which is offered in the library’s public meeting room. The Friends of Queen Memorial Library president, Betty Beaufort, along with Library Assistant Juanita Wilburn (pictured), are trained and certified to administer the daily meals and snacks. Personal pizzas, peanut butter and jelly sandwiches, and yogurt are some of the favorites of the kids and teens that frequent the library. The SFSP also draws in more kids and families to participate in other library programs such as the Summer Reading Game, storytimes, and more! The Queen Memorial Library will be offering free lunches from 12:00 p.m. – 2:00 p.m., and a snack from 3:00 p.m. – 4:00 p.m., through Friday September 1.
The 21st century public library is undoubtedly more than just books! Through offerings such as the Summer Food Service Program, libraries are showcasing a commitment to improving the well-being of their customers beyond the bounds of literacy alone. By transforming its image from a stuffy reading room into a vibrant hub of knowledge and support, the library establishes itself as an invaluable public resource that will persist as a brick-and-mortar institution well into the digital age.