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Summer Picnic Series Tackling Childhood Food Insecurity in Santa Barbara County

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California Governor Gavin Newsom just announced meals in public schools will be free for all. But what about children during the summer break?

A free food program for kids in Santa Barbara County in tackling childhood food insecurity in the summer break.

Outside this elementary school in Carpinteria, free food packages are being handed out to families for their children’s lunch.

Some drive by, some stay and eat on a picnic blanket and listen to the music being played by local youth musicians.

It’s part of a summer meal concert series, and one of nearly 50 locations in Santa Barbara County where any child can be supplied with a free 'grab and go' healthy meal.

Leanne Patterson is a mom of three – and says she’s just learning about the program.

"It's such a gift to many of us families that, this year, may have been in economic straits this year. I'm totally blessed by this bag," she told KCLU.

Earlier this week, California Governor Gavin Newsom announced that meals in public schools will be free for all children. But during the summer months, childhood hunger spikes for those who rely on free meals during the school year.

Laura Capps from No Kid Hungry says the aim is to support families during the summer months.

"It's a way for our community to come together and make sure that everyone has enough food," she told KCLU News.

"Especially in the summer, hunger spikes for kids because they're not connected to school and those wonderful school meals that they rely on all year long.

"Summer is a time when kids should be thriving, playing, going to the beach. They need food to sustain their growing bodies," says Capps.

Santa Barbara County has the 3rd highest rate of poverty in California, with 1 in 5 kids in the county experiencing food insecurity.

Democratic Congressman Salud Carbajal of Santa Barbara says many children depend on school meals for nutrition.

He says the No Kid Hungry program is "extra important" in the summer, for children who are in need of food security.

The youth musicians today are trained Rock Shop Academy – the director George Pendergast says that bringing music to the distributions sites is a way to destigmatize food insecurity.

"The Rock Shop Academy has students from 10-17 years old, typically. These kids are their peers. It's very important for these kids to destigmatize this hunger issue."

Anyone can find out the nearest food site to them by texting SUMMERFOOD to 877-877.

Caroline won an LA Press Club Award in 2021 for Use Of Sound. However, she started her broadcasting career in the UK, working on both radio and television for the BBC, 95.8 Capital FM and Sky News and was awarded the Prince Philip Medal for her services to radio and journalism. She moved to Los Angeles in 2013 and is both an American and British citizen. Caroline lives in Agoura Hills with her daughter, and joined the KCLU team in 2020.