This summer, The Food Bank will provide bags of fresh produce and produce vouchers to children attending Summer Food 4 Kids sites in Boone County.

The project is possible through funding from Conagra Brands Foundation’s Hunger-Free Summer Program. With a $20,000 grant, The Food Bank will allow summer feeding recipients to take fresh fruits and vegetables home after lunch. Additionally, up to two $5 vouchers will be given out to be used to purchase fresh produce at local grocery stores and additional $5 vouchers will be given weekly to be used at the Columbia Farmers’ Market.

“This is a great time of year to implement a program that increases distribution of fruits and vegetables,” says Lindsay Young Lopez, executive director of The Food Bank. “Summer months can be paradoxical. On one hand, gardens and greenhouses are overflowing with nutritious and delicious produce. On the other hand, some children no longer have access to subsidized school meals, meaning they are more at risk of food insecurity.”

Lopez is hopeful the produce program provides incentives for more children to attend summer feeding sites in Columbia. Lunches will be served from noon to 1 p.m. Monday through Friday at parks and churches located in high-need neighborhoods.

This is the second year The Food Bank has used summer feeding sites to educate children about healthy eating. A Farm to Table program began at Central Pantry last year to introduce children to new fruits and vegetables and ways to prepare them. “We want the next generation to understand where food comes from and how it is grown and harvested,” Lopez said. “We also want them to better appreciate nutritional foods that encourage healthy lifestyles.”