ABOVE PHOTO: One-year-old Jahad Brown flashes a smile as he enjoys lunch at Spring Garden Apartments, near Center City. The development is one of 18 hosting PHA’s Summer Food Program that offers healthy meals to children when schools are not in session.
An increasing number of families living in poverty combined with cuts to the federal food stamp program and other forms of assistance make the Philadelphia Housing Authority’s Summer Food Service Program more important than ever.
In the summer of 2011, PHA served almost 46,000 meals to children ages 18 and younger and provided them with wholesome, safe activities close to home.
“The housing authority is grateful for the opportunity to offer the Summer Food Service Program again at our sites,” said Kelvin Jeremiah, PHA’s Interim Executive Director. “With so many families struggling financially, we must ensure that our youth have access to healthy foods so they can live healthy, active lives.”
Almost 27 percent of Philadelphia’s residents live in poverty according to the latest Census Bureau figures. The rate is 31 percent for families with children and 47 percent for families headed by a woman. A study by the Robert Wood Johnson Foundation and the University of Wisconsin Population Health Institute directly linked the high poverty rate to unhealthy living, including poor diets.
The Philadelphia Housing Authority is one of several large sponsors of the Summer Food Service Program in the City of Philadelphia. Over the past 30 years, the housing authority has provided children who live at PHA sites, as well as those who live in the surrounding neighborhood, with direct access to healthy meals during the summer months when schools are not in session.
Eighteen PHA sites throughout the City will serve breakfast and lunch for this year’s program. Children who do not live at a designated PHA site can go to a neighboring site or one of 150 sites operated by the City’s Department of Parks and Recreation, which will offer similar meals.
The program began Monday, June 18 and runs until Friday, August 17. The hours of operation are Monday through Friday from 8 AM to 2 PM at the following sites:
• Abbottsford Homes • Hill Creek
• Arch Homes • Johnson Homes
• Bartram Village • Morton Homes
• Blumberg Apartments • Norris Apartments
• Cambridge Plaza (J. F. Street Center) • Oxford Village
• Champlost Homes • Raymond Rosen Manor
• Fairhill Apartments • Spring Garden Apartments
• Haddington Homes • West Park Apartments
• Harrison Plaza • Whitehall Apartments
Summer Food is about more than just healthy meals; it also features a number of healthy activities for kids taking part in the program.
“This summer, we will have first aid clubs. Our kids will be read to for 15 minutes a day. There will be training for some teenagers who will have the opportunity to become camp counselors in subsequent years,” said Dr. Samuel Little, Deputy Executive Director for Resident and Community Services at PHA.
Other activities include, but are not limited to, computer classes for youth, financial literacy for youth, the Drug Abuse Resistance Education (D.A.R.E) program, the Eagles Book Mobile, the Free Library Techmobile, a youth nutrition program by Penn State, health fitness by Health Partners (a nonprofit managed care health insurance organization owned by some of the area’s leading hospitals), a water safety workshop, and a fire safety workshop.
A partnership between PHA, the Pennsylvania Department of Education, and the United States Department of Agriculture (USDA) makes the program possible. People who want more information about participating in the program can call (215) 684-0393.