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(Chris Detrick | The Salt Lake Tribune) A lunch served as part of the Summer Food Service Program at the Salt Lake City Main Library on Wednesday June 11, 2014. Last year, the Summer Food Service Program gave out more than a million lunches in the state of Utah.
Free summer lunches offered for Utah kids
Nutrition » Salt Lake City’s Main Library joins sites around the state keeping kids fed.
First Published Jun 11 2014 04:42 pm • Last Updated Jun 11 2014 11:25 pm

McKell Withers hopes kids who come to the Salt Lake City Main Library for a free lunch will also pick up a few books.

"Kids in poverty don’t have access to reading materials during the summer," said Withers, superintendent of the Salt Lake City School District. "Some of them don’t even own books. But how can you connect feeding the mind and feeding the body at the same time? That’s what’s cool about today."

At a glance

Find a free lunch

To find a Summer Food Service Program site in your community, use this interactive map.

Millions of meals served in Utah

Meals given per summer at Utah sites of the Summer Food Service Program:

2009: 1,224,944

2010: 1,221,406

2011: 1,285,776

2012: 1,246,228

2013: 1,089,606

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The federally funded Summer Food Service Program began serving free lunches to kids age 18 and younger at 200 sites around the state on Monday. Lunches are available every weekday, except on holidays.

Utahns Against Hunger wants to make sure children from low-income homes who rely on free and reduced price meals during the school year know they can get free lunches during the summer, said Marti Woolford, outreach coordinator.

The nonprofit partnered with the Utah State Office of Education Wednesday to highlight the program and the new downtown Salt Lake City location at the library.

All children can benefit from the program, Woolford added. "It’s a kid program so it’s for all kids regardless of income," she said. "That’s why there’s no paperwork required."

Woolford said she hoped to draw attention to the library location because fewer children are receiving meals there.

"We could go to a site in Kearns that has 500 kids a day, but they don’t need more kids to come," she said. "We need the smaller sites to get participants."

Adding the library as a location can have an impact beyond easing hunger, Withers said.

"There’s a little thing called summer reading loss," he said. "And for young people that live in poverty it’s also nutrition loss. And when those two things are addressed in parks and schools and libraries, you start to break down the barriers to learning that otherwise aren’t addressed."

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