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CDE Ed Talks Podcast Episode 9

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Summer Meal Programs

Published: February 25, 2020, Duration: 00:10:58

Cintya Loreto, Outreach Coordinator for Summer Meal Programs for CDE, speaks with Chief Deputy Superintendent Lupita Cortez Alcalá about the importance of Summer Meal Programs.



[Intro music plays]

Cintya Loreto: Welcome to CDE Ed Talks. I'm Cintya Loreto, Outreach Coordinator for the Summer Meal Programs for CDE and your host today. Today's topic is the Summer Meal Programs.

When you think about summer, we may think about vacations, beaches, barbecues, and hanging out with your friends by the pool. But for some families in California, about 21 percent, it might be a source of unease. There's a lot to think about and a lot to face for parents. They're looking at three months with their kids home—home alone or without much to do. And there's a lot of to worry about: What activities are they going to be doing? Who are they going to be playing with?

So here to talk to us a little bit about the Summer Meal Programs, this resource available to help families with this time, is Chief Deputy to California State Superintendent of Public Instruction, Lupita Cortez Alcalá.

Lupita Cortez Alcalá: Hi. How are you?

Cintya Loreto: I'm good, how are you?

Lupita Cortez Alcalá: Very, very good.

Cintya Loreto: Thank you for joining us today. And thank you for being willing to talk to us a little bit about the summer meal programs and helping us through this conversation, and talking about this time that parents have dealing with their kids during the summer. Can you talk a little bit about your experiences just to start us off with your summers and what you did as a kid?

Lupita Cortez Alcalá: Well I can relate to talking a little bit about having my kids over the summer and it's daunting. Three meals a day is daunting for any parent. So I know what a task it is to figure out how to prepare, plan, buy food throughout the summer months for my own kids.

But as a as a child, we participated a lot hands-on with our parents—not only cleaning and in the garden, anything from painting to putting grass in, to putting bricks in. So we spent a lot of time with our parents helping around the house and improving our home. And my mom sort of loved to cook actually. And she provided a lot of the meals and we definitely tried to stay out of being underfoot. There was four of us so we really appreciated that that time with our parents.

But we know that, I know that a lot of families don't have the luxury of having someone stay at home like my mom was able to with us. And I know that my dad didn't have the cooking talent nor an interest, so really we depended a lot on her.

But nowadays both parents go to work. They have to, to make ends meet. And so we know what a struggle it is when you know your kids are old enough to not be in a childcare center, but too young to maybe cook a nutritious meal for themselves. And so the Summer Meals Program that's offered in California through the federal and state funding through the Department of Education, is such an important resource for parents and their families, because it allows your children to do something and be watched. And go get a meal.

Sometimes they're at recreational centers, community centers, schools, libraries. There are over 5,000 meals [sites] that serve in California during the summer months and a lot of parents don't even know about that, right? So what's amazing about that opportunity is that students are with other students. So they're socializing. You know where they're at. They're also getting a nutritious meal, because if you left them to their own devices like my children, they would be making Top Ramen every day. And it's not the most nutritious thing, but it's the easiest thing. And it's something that they enjoy and are fulfilled with, but it is not the most nutritious thing, right?

And some parents may have a health issue. They may feel not well enough to put a lot of effort in because, they they're not feeling well. Some parents may not have to go to work. And then other parents may have some economic problems and may want to use some of that money to pay a bill. And here's this opportunity where your kids could be fed a really nutritious meal, at a community center, at a local site, and also received a nutritious meal and not be underfoot like we were. And enjoy time with friends and getting to meet new people.

Cintya Loreto: Yeah well it’s awesome that you pinpointed right away that it's not just about meals, the Summer Meal Programs. They also offer enrichment activities and so many of our sponsors do so much great work to try to expand their offerings at their sites—to not only bring kids there for the meals, but to bring them there for the different types of activities.

A lot of sponsors focus on literacy and definitely a lot of them focus on nutrition education.  They offer different things like Otter the Potter, to talk to them about drinking water. And they also connect with a lot of their community partners and even small businesses, like Big-O Tires and stuff. They have the obstacle courses for them to do. So there's little recreational activities like that for them also. So there's a lot to draw them there.

Lupita Cortez Alcalá:  I totally agree. I think sometimes if students for a long period of time don't receive nutritious meals, or don't read a book, or don't get exposed to math throughout the summer months, you deprive your brain of that sort of activity, and that growth. And that ability to stretch and grow and learn.

And so it's the same as when they say, you know the “summer melt,” or you know, the gap that gets created throughout the summer months for just academic purposes. It's the same with nutrition. So sometimes you can't, if you're not reading regularly, you're not doing math problems, or not feeling enriched by learning throughout the summer, you don't nourish your brain. In the same way, a really great meal can nourish your brain. So you're right, this is an opportunity for parents and students to really be able to benefit and take advantage of not only the academic enrichment part of a summer meal program, but the summer meal itself.

And so it's just something that's free and not a lot of parents know exists or where it's at.  And so we have lots of different resources on our California Department of Education website. And you just search at And you look for “California meals for kids.” And you can learn all the different sites that are available. There's also an app that's through the California Department of Education site. It's called “CA Meals for Kids.”

And then you can even text No Kid Hungry at 877-877 and then you include “food” or “comida” to find the local summer meals program near them. Because a lot of time parents are like, “Okay so these things exist but where are they? How do I have access to them?”

So not only can you go on the [California] Department of Education website to find it, you can text to find it, or you can download an app to see what's around your area that would serve these really nutritious meals.

Cintya Loreto: Yeah the CA Meals for Kids app is actually really user friendly. Also it gives you the information behind the times the meals are available. And you're welcome to also call the sites to find out what kind of activities they'll be offering, so you know where you want to take your kids for a little more tutoring or nutrition education, and those obstacle courses we were talking about.

Lupita Cortez Alcalá:  One of the other things I think that it's important to share is for those families that have, a different immigration status, a migratory status, they often feel: “Will these meals count against my immigration status in some way if one day I want to legalize and become a permanent resident?”

And it's really important that these meals and these programs don't count against or put you at risk. No information is asked of you. You don't have to show your ID. You don't have to register in some way, where your information is going to be sent somewhere to be a problem, or risking you later.

This is really an opportunity for parents and families to participate without fear that this is going to affect their immigration status. And so a lot of rumors out there exist about: “Well, is this considered a public charge? Will this affect me later on?”

And I just want to let you know here from the California Department of Education, from the Chief Deputy Superintendent. It is false. Those are rumors. They're not true and I want to encourage all families to participate and not be afraid of participating.

Cintya Loreto: Definitely. Yeah and just to emphasize once again: Sponsors of these programs are our community members you know. They're typically the schools, they're nonprofit organizations in your area, hosting these sites at community sites like your parks, your community centers, your faith-based centers. And yeah, they're just there to provide this resource for your children, and to provide these safe, nutritious meals. And it's definitely something to take advantage of.

Lupita Cortez Alcalá:  Absolutely. I think all families should not only take advantage, but share this with their friends and family because it's an awesome opportunity for students to have something to do during the summer, and get enrichment and literacy and other great physical activities, probably.

Because you know if they're at home they're going to be on some video game or on their phones, or on your phone, and clearly underfoot like we were when we were kids. So not only can they benefit from this opportunity, but also get a really nutritious meal. Especially if you're at work, or don't feel well. Or, quite frankly, it's hard to have kids home for three months straight.

So I really want to encourage our listeners to take advantage of this and share this information. Again go to our California Department of Education website and look up Summer Meals Programs or download the app from the California Department of Education: CA Meals for Kids. Or even text No Kid Hungry at 877-877 and then text “food” or “comida.” And you'll find the site near you that's going to be offering that [meal] this summer.

Cintya Loreto: Thank you so much for coming on and talking to us today and sharing that information, Lupita.

Lupita Cortez Alcalá:  Thank you.


[End of Podcast Episode 9]

Questions: Web Services Office | | 916-445-5683 
Last Reviewed: Tuesday, February 25, 2020
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