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Picnic in the Park Returns to Boise Neighborhoods for Another Summer of Free Lunches

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Picnic in the Park organizers hope to distribute 51,000 meals in Boise this summer.  - SOPHIA ANGLETON
  • Sophia Angleton
  • Picnic in the Park organizers hope to distribute 51,000 meals in Boise this summer.
The choice was between strawberry or regular milk Monday afternoon at Winstead Park in Boise, where the Idaho Foodbank kicked off its 19th year of Picnic in the Park. The weekday gatherings provide free meals to food insecure children in Boise and, for the inaugural picnic this year, that meant lunches including a sandwich, string cheese, carrots and apple slices.

“Kids want to be out having fun, but not on an empty stomach,” said Boise City Councilman TJ Thomson at the Boise Bench park.

The Boise School District ended its academic year Friday, June 2 and, for many parents, that also meant the end of free or low-cost meals for their kids. To bridge the gap, Picnic in the Park distributes free lunches to youths 1 to 18 years of age on summer weekdays.

According to Jackie Yarbrough, director of Programs and Partnerships at the Idaho Foodbank, there are more than 76,000 food insecure children in Idaho. While she said food insecurity rates have improved slightly, that doesn’t mean the Picnic in the Park program is cutting back.

“Food security is improving, but [insecurity] numbers are still so high that we have much more work to do,” said Yarbrough.

Picnic in the Park serves lunches at 25 locations across Boise and organizers hope to give out more than 51,000 meals this summer—approximately 5,000 more than a year ago. Since its inception, Picnic in the Park has partnered with other organizations that bring games, physical activities, books and health education to the kids.

“We're involved with Picnic in the Park because we want to feed the mind and feed the body at the same time,” said Staci Shaw, a youth consultant with the Idaho Commission for Libraries. “We like to say, 'Well fed and well read.'”

Another partner, Delta Dental, will hand out free toothbrushes and offer dental health education throughout the summer.

“It’s really about communities and neighborhoods,” said Yarbrough. “These kids are gathering here so it makes sense to bring the resources to them.”
Staci Shaw, of the Idaho Commission for Libraries: "We like to say, 'Well fed and well read." - SOPHIA ANGLETON
  • Sophia Angleton
  • Staci Shaw, of the Idaho Commission for Libraries: "We like to say, 'Well fed and well read."

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