summerlunchbox 2088
School's out for summer. In an ideal world, that means the ease of lazy mornings, exciting days of outdoor adventure and evenings that lead to later bedtimes as even the sun seems to wants to hang around and play. But, for many Lansing families, summertime also brings the worry and stress of food-insecurity as school-based breakfast and lunch programs go away. That's why a group of community members have come together to launch the Lansing Summer Lunchbox, a program to provide free, nutritious food to students in the Lansing School District (LCSD).

The Lansing Summer Lunchbox was born out of the realization that hunger and food-insecurity are real issues in Lansing. Current statistics indicate that over 25% of students in the Lansing Central School District participate in the free and reduced price school breakfast and lunch programs. It is likely that this official number is an underestimate of need as not all families who qualify come forward to sign up and, importantly, families who do not meet income qualifications may still be struggling. While 25% is well below the regional average, it still means 1 in 4 kids in LCSD is at risk of not having enough food to eat, especially over the summer.

Lansing Summer Lunchbox organizer, Susan Tabrizi, describes the program as an effort to make a difference locally. "It is simply not acceptable for our kids to be hungry," she says. "We decided that it was our responsibility to see this largely unseen problem in our community and to act."

Financial backing from the Triad Foundation allows the program to provide a month's worth of nutritious lunch and breakfast foods, including cereal, peanut butter, canned tuna and chicken, canned fruits, pasta, rice and fresh fruits and vegetables as they are available, free of charge for LCSD families. Families receive food boxes twice over the summer, at the end of June and the end of July. Already this summer, over 30 volunteers from the Cayuga Lake Seido Karate dojo worked with Lunchbox volunteers to pack food boxes that were over distributed to more than 70 kids in the community.

summerlunchbox 2089Cayuga Lake Seido Karate and Lansing Summer Lunchbox volunteers pack boxes at the Community Recreation Center.
Program organizer Linda Pasto says that the program hopes to reach even more kids in July and that there are plans to expand and offer support during extended school breaks. "As grateful as we are to be able to make this initial start, there is much more work to be done," says Pasto. "Food insecurity is a persistent and difficult social problem."

Tabrizi and Pasto say that the Lansing Central School District, particularly elementary school principal Lorri Whiteman, and Lansing PTSO, are major partners in the work the program hopes to accomplish. Toni Adams, Director of the Lansing Food Pantry and pantry volunteers, have provided expertise.

"We are a community-based group trying to make a difference. It's humbling to see Lansing come together around this important issue," says Tabrizi. "Community Recreation Center has given us space to operate, Lansing Market has provided boxes" she says. "In Lansing, we work together to support each other."