Summer meal program dishes out free meals across CJUSD


Marleen Perez (left) and Kelly Felix (right) work for Nutrition Services. Ms. Felix: “It makes my heart happy to help the community.”

Colton, CA—Nutrition Services is feeding the community for free this summer. The Free Summer Meal Program, operating until July 16, is fighting teen hunger in Colton and San Bernardino by offering healthy food options to community residents 18 and under at no charge.

There are three food service locations across Colton Joint Unified School District: Gonzales Community Center (670 Colton Ave., Colton), Joe Baca Middle School (1640 S. Lilac Ave., Bloomington), and Veterans Park (290 E. O St., Colton). Serving times vary, but Nutrition Services is circulating a flyer with more information.

Infographic courtesy of the San Bernardino County Department of Health, 2017.

“It may come as a surprise to know that San Bernardino has about a 12% food insecurity rate,” says Eric Enciso, Director of Nutrition Services for CJUSD. “This basically means it is hard for these households to find the resources for quality healthy meals.” 12% equates to approximately a quarter million residents in the greater San Bernardino area who do not have sufficient money or transportation to access quality food.

This in mind, Nutrition Services is participating in the Seamless Summer Option program through the California Department of Education and the U.S. Department of Agriculture. This program’s intent is inspiring more school districts to provide meals to low-income areas during summer and school vacations.

The Free Summer Meal Program has been effective in reaching the community. Between June 7th and July 6th, Nutrition Services has served over 38,000 meals, including breakfast and lunch. Due to the lingering impact of the COVID-19 virus, the menu mainly consists of Grab-N-Go style meals. Masks may be required at all locations to ensure the safety of servers and the community. For menus, Nutrition Services keeps their website, LunchAtColton, updated daily.

The Free Summer Meal Program is the first part of an initiative to ensure all kids eat free in 2021-2022. During the upcoming school year, all students will be eligible for free meals on their school campus. Paperwork is not required.

“We are very excited about this,” Enciso says. “Now a meal is simply a resource given to all students. Just like a book, or a desk.”