What's For Lunch? Picnic in the Park Begins Its 2019 Season in Boise Parks 

click to enlarge ANNA FELIX
  • Anna Felix
A line of kids quickly formed next to the Boise Co-op's so-called "Shake Bike." The kids  were anxious to see who could pedal the fastest and blend the perfect blueberry smoothie. Eventually, the line got smaller, just in time for staff from the Idaho Foodbank to begin passing out the free lunches for the afternoon.

The excitement was all part of the June 3rd kickoff for Picnic in the Park. Idaho Foodbank President and CEO Karen Vaulk smiled at the kids as she address the gathering.

“The summer food program has a near and dear place in my heart,” said Vauk, who was joined by a group of representatives from the Idaho Department of Education, Boise School District and the City of Boise Department of Parks and Recreation.

Picnic in the Park supports thousands of Idaho kids each summer. When school gets out, food-insecure kids often lose access to at least one stable meal a day-usually a free- or reduced-price lunch and/or breakfast.

There are at least half-a-dozen similar programs across Idaho, with local nonprofits working with the Foodbank.

“You have a successful effort when you have a barn-raising and everyone chips in,” said Boise Mayor, Dave Bieter, who has attended multiple Picnic in the Park kickoffs through the years.

With 19 locations in the Boise-Metro area alone, Picnic in the Park is available Mondays through Fridays, through Friday, August 9th this year.While the program primarily serves  children, ages 1-18, adults are also welcome to buy a lunch at a reduced price of one dollar.

click to enlarge ANNA FELIX
  • Anna Felix
On kickoff day, the lunch included a peanut butter and jelly sandwich, carrots, grapes, string cheese, and a chocolate milk. The lunches are approved by a registered dietician and meets all USDA nutrition requirements. Lunches vary each day and range from turkey sandwiches to hard-boiled eggs with pretzels.

“Hunger doesn’t take a break during the summer,” said Morgan Wilson, the Vice President of Development for the Idaho Foodbank.

Picnic in the Park locations around Boise are strategic; they’re traditionally placed near areas with food-insecure kids. Additionally, a mobile version of Picnic in the Park was created. Simply put, it's a van that loads up lunches and travels to different areas are town that might have more low income housing that isn't necessarily near a park. The van unpacks and sets up for thirty to forty minutes at each site. With the mobile lunch system, the Foodbank can reach additional locations each day, increasing the program’s outreach.
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