Kyle Downum hands his son a graham cracker sandwich at the Kenai Community Library on Monday. The family took a break from the library’s many activists to enjoy a free afternoon lunch. The Kenai and Soldotna libraries are offering free lunches to children 18 and under as part of its Summer Food Program. (Photo by Erin Thompson/Peninsula Clarion)

Kyle Downum hands his son a graham cracker sandwich at the Kenai Community Library on Monday. The family took a break from the library’s many activists to enjoy a free afternoon lunch. The Kenai and Soldotna libraries are offering free lunches to children 18 and under as part of its Summer Food Program. (Photo by Erin Thompson/Peninsula Clarion)

Kids eat free at summer meal programs

The Kenai Community Library is expanding its summer meals program, with free lunches available to children twice weekly on Mondays and Wednesdays.

The library launched the Summer Food Program for Kids last year, providing meals once a week. This year, it worked with the Soldotna Public Library to ensure that meals will be served to children 18 and under five days a week. Soldotna will provide meals Tuesday, Thursdays and Fridays, said James Adcox, Kenai Public Library youth services coordinator.

The Kenai library offered the meals 12 times last summer — providing 105 lunches, Adcox said. Part of the Food Bank of Alaska’s Summer Meals Program, the lunches are intended to help supplement kids’ nutrition during the summer break.

“It’s certainly meant to help those that are used to being provided free meals through schools,” Adcox said.

The meals are free to all kids, however, so those coming to the library to enjoy its many activities will get a break and energy boost in between events.

Kyle Downum brought three of his five children to the library Monday morning, and said having a ready-to-eat meal was a helpful bonus. “This really saved our bacon today.”

Downum’s kids, ages 3, 6 and 9, have been taking advantage of the library’s packed summer schedule, which offers preschool story time, arts and crafts, youth and recreational clubs.

The kids were particularly looking forward to the monthly American Doll Club and the Lego workshops.

Downum, who moved to Alaska in March, said the Kenai library offers an impressive number of summer activities compared to local library in Oklahoma. “The library didn’t have anything like this there.”

The meals are free to everyone but must be eaten on site. The program ends Aug. 15.

Reach Erin Thompson at ethompson@peninsulaclarion.com.

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