This summer marks the fifth year of our innovative Wallingford Summer Food program.
Each weekday, 60 Wallingford Club kids can count on healthy, nutritious, delicious, and all-vegetarian meals for lunch— with protein-rich ingredients like yogurt, hummus, beans, and eggs — freshly prepared by three staff chefs. After four years of experimenting, staff have learned to strike a balance between trying new foods and sticking with crowd-pleasers.
Area Director Meghan Sweet explains, “We’ve tried things and taken items off the menu based on the kids’ preferences. For example, I tried collards and kale several times and could never get a good chunk of the kids to eat them. I found it was better to serve carrot sticks or steamed broccoli twice a week and know it will get eaten as opposed to the kids throwing food away.”
While the USDA minimum requirement is ¾ cup per day of fruits and vegetables, Wallingford Club kids are enjoying daily meals that include a minimum of 1.5-2 cups. Plus, thanks to Farm to Table funds, the staff can purchase freshly picked produce. “It allows us to expand our repertoire and expose kids to new things,” explains Meghan.
“We often expose the kids to new things, especially based on what’s available through Farm to Table…”
What’s not offered? Packaged and processed foods like Goldfish crackers and granola bars, along with items that contain added sugar or flavored milk.
Here’s what 13-year-old Kulane had to say about the program: “I eat lunch at the Club in the summer and have since they started doing it. They don’t serve any meat at the Club—which is weird—but they do serve a lot of things I like…burritos, sandwiches and mac ‘n cheese. (Except they put peas in the mac ‘n cheese, and there’s no way to pick them out.)
“They serve a lot of fruits and vegetables, and I usually just eat them since they are there—things like carrots and cucumbers and lots of fruit. I do like the blueberries, strawberries, watermelon, steamed green beans, carrot sticks, and the apple slices with soy nut butter! If I didn’t have lunch at the Club, I probably would just grab a bag of chips at the gas station or something like that.”
“If I didn’t have lunch at the club, I probably would just grab a bag of chips at the gas station or something like that.”
Boys & Girls Clubs of King County serves nearly 400,000 meals and snacks a year. The importance of this program has been recognized by King County Best Starts for Kids, who awarded us a significant grant to develop new ways to ensure our kids are eating and enjoying healthier options.