“It would help a lot,” Trujillo said.
The FBNN’s summer meals program for children starts next week but on Wednesday, workers began getting the word out at Virginia Palmer Elementary School in Sun Valley and even bringing free Jelly Belly fruit snacks and sacks of potatoes for students.
“That’s my dinner tonight!” one girl exclaimed, pointing at some potatoes as she ran around with some friends at Palmer.
Sue Eckes is director of child nutrition at the Food Bank, which runs the Kids Café free meal program for children 1 to 18 years. Kids Café serves free dinners during the school year at 26 locations in Washoe County, most of which are at public schools. Palmer is one of those sites, serving 85 children this year.
“Over one-third of Washoe County children do not have enough food,” Eckes said.
One-third equates to about 26,000 children, more than half of whom qualify for the Washoe County School District’s (WCSD) free and reduced lunch program, Eckes said. The program is targeted to many of the district’s Title I, low-income population, including children who may have working parents who can’t come home in the middle of the day or whose parents may not be working at all and are struggling to pay the bills, she added.
Sue Parks, principal of Palmer, which is considered a "bubble" school because it typically comes within 2 percent of qualifying for Title I funds, said dinner at her campus is served at 3 p.m., just before the students go home.
"This is a phenomenal addition to our school," Parks said. "When students don't have the basic necessities, they're not storing the information they learn. Their survival mode kicks in. ... So this program has been incredibly helpful."
To help meet an increasing need to feed children in the sour economy, the Food Bank will continue to provide food throughout the summer, a program it started in 1991.
This year, there are five sites in Sparks where children can go. Locations change from year to year to help those neighborhoods most in need and are chosen based on how easy it would be for kids to walk to on their own, said FBNN spokeswoman Jocelyn Lantrip.
“We do it not only at schools, but pools and parks,” she said.
Juan Soltero, who recently took custody of his two kids and is unemployed, said the program would also be of assistance to him.
“My sister is taking me to the casinos tomorrow (to look for work),” he said. “This (program) will be helpful.”
The program is funded by the U.S. Department of Agriculture’s Summer Food Service Program. Last year, more than 71,000 meals were served and the Food Bank will take as many children who come for food, Eckes said.
FBNN partners with the WCSD, which is the meal vendor.
“(The school district) is a great partner for us,” Eckes said.
She said hunger in any community is a serious problem that needs to be addressed, especially when it involves children.
“I think of how important a child’s development is and it can’t be neglected,” she said. “They become ill more and if they’re not getting the nutrition they need, they can’t concentrate in school, so (having good nutrition) benefits their academics. This is an investment in their health … and if they don’t do well in school, they can’t get a job or continue to do well socially.”
Summer food service sites
Ardmore Park, across from Sparks Library,
1200 12th St.
Poulakidas Park, near Lincoln Park Elementary School,
530 Fourth St.
1605 Pyramid Way
in front of pool,
2355 18th St.
1700 Prater Way