Boise Families 'Picnic in the Park,' Find Books, Games, Free Lunch 

click to enlarge Children learned about nutrition at Picnic in the Park.

Harrison Berry

Children learned about nutrition at Picnic in the Park.

Booths, badminton, bubbles and books were on the menu June 6 at Winstead Park, where the Idaho Foodbank hosted Picnic in the Park, a five-day per week program at area parks designed to address food insecurity among Idaho children during the summer.

“[W]e’re set up in 25 different locations across the valley providing free summer meals for kids who are in need, so we’re here for them,” said Karen Vauk, CEO of the Idaho Foodbank.

As Idaho school kids transition from the responsibilities of homework and school attendance to the freedom of summertime, many will face food insecurity and may take up sedentary habits. By offering lunches and opportunities for outside play, Picnic in the Park aims to help make sure kids are eating nutritious meals while school is out of session and getting some exercise while they're at it.

The program runs Mondays through Fridays until Aug. 12.

According to Feeding America, Idaho’s child food insecurity rate is 19.3 percent.

The Idaho Foodbank has partnered with organizations including the Idaho State Department of Education, CNCS—AmeriCorps VISTA, Boise Parks and Recreation, Boise School District and the Idaho Commission for Libraries.

Along the same lines as Picnic in the Park, the Idaho Commission for Libraries hosts a program called Literacy in the Park, which promotes reading during the summer by providing a collection of books for kids of all ages. Lauren Yoder, a mother of two who sat near the library station at the June 6 event, said the program in the park was convenient for her.

“We moved here from Indiana and didn’t have anything like this,” she said. “When we moved up to Boise, we started doing this at Ivy Wilde, which was the closest park to our apartment, and now we’re back this year.”

Nearby, more than 30 children played games and danced while they waited to eat their lunches. Courtney Frei, a staff member at Boise Parks and Recreation, said devices like cellphones and iPads are cutting into kids’ play time. Organized play outside through the Parks and Rec program provides an active alternative.

“This encourages kids to play and learn what it’s like to not be on their phones all the time,” she said. 
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