Wednesday, June 6, 2012

Picnic In the Park Program Kicks Off, Feeds More Than 1,600 in Two Days

Posted By on Wed, Jun 6, 2012 at 2:56 PM

Idaho Foodbank employee Chris Nutt, left, hands out meals to children as part of the Picnic in the Park program, which kicked off June 4.
  • Idaho Foodbank employee Chris Nutt, left, hands out meals to children as part of the Picnic in the Park program, which kicked off June 4.

Now in its 12th year, the Idaho Foodbank's annual Picnic in the Park program officially kicked off June 4 at 20 locations. In those two days, program director Jackie Yarbrough estimated more than 1,600 lunches were handed out, free of charge, to Boise residents.

"Our largest parks in this program are Ivywild, Winstead and Redwood," she said. "We're serving around 100 to 150 kids per day at those locations."

The program is meant to help feed children who don't have the school lunch program during the summer to help fill the gap—a pervasive issue in the Gem State, according to a new study completed by the Idaho Foodbank and Feeding America. Data shows that 22.8 percent of Idaho children, or one in four of those younger that 18 remain hungry.

That's around 96,000 youth who live in food-insecure situations. However, 35 percent of those children are ineligible for government assistance, said a Foodbank representative. That fact makes programs like Picnic in the Park necessary.

The 2012 Map the Meal Gap study goes into greater detail about families who don't know where their next meal will come from. It shows that Idaho ranges from a low of 17.2 percent in Oneida County, to a high of 30.7 percent in Valley County in child food insecurity rates.

"They have had a hard time up there since Tamarack closed," said spokesman David Proctor.

A press conference today at the South Boise Cassia Park included Yarbrough, Boise Mayor Dave Bieter and Foodbank CEO Karen Vauk.

The Boise Parks and Recreation Department's mobile recreation van offered equipment for a quick game of "sproutball," a variation on dodgeball.

Celery, milk, bananas and more were part of the sack lunches offered by the Idaho Foodbank and partners.
  • Andrew Crisp
  • Celery, milk, bananas and more were part of the sack lunches offered by the Idaho Foodbank and partners.

At lunch time, a group of children jockeyed up to the tables to pick their lunches. Offerings included celery sticks, a banana, plain or chocolate milk and choice of tuna with crackers or a turkey sandwich.

"I love kids to death," said Kent Fletcher, a part-time Foodbank employee handing out meals. "I love helping kids get something to eat. I've seen hungry kids in the schools. When they're hungry, they're not happy. I hope I can make a difference in their lives."

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