Lunch and Learn: summer is no time for hunger … or boredom

Photo by Leila Habib

Thirteen million children across the country lack the means to eat healthy and nutritious meals every day, but Takoma Park’s Lunch and Learn program is trying to ensure that no child in this community goes hungry this summer.

“As policy makers, people just don’t think this is something that a wealthy county like Montgomery County will have to tackle,” said Councilmember Jarrett Smith. “Hunger in Takoma Park is a big issue.”

Lunch and Learn was born from a community need to solve child hunger. Many Takoma Park kids are a part of the FARM initiative, a government program granting students two free school lunches a day.

When the summer comes those children lose their meals.

Councilmember Smith teamed up with Jacquette Frazier to create a program designed to remedy this.

From June 26 to August 4, Lunch and Learn provides both breakfast and lunch to campers while teaching them reading and math.

Teenagers looking to fulfill the county’s community service requirement and retired Takoma Park schoolteachers help to educate the kids.

“It first was about 30 kids and now today we have about 200 and we are busting out at the seams,” said Jacquette Frazier, Lunch and Learn founder. “I have to turn away 80-100 kids.”

Lunch and Learn gets its funding from the city and the county.

Sponsors also help support the program, whether it’s through monetary or book donations.

Lunch and Learn is working with CHEER, an organization dedicated to creating a better community through holistic initiatives, which provides administrative support as the program’s fiscal agent. CHEER currently has a Go-Fund Me page to help the Lunch and Learn program get what Frazier calls much needed funding.

“We take a big picture view, but we are trying to help people like Jacquette and many others to create these kinds of programs,” said Bruce Baker, head of CHEER.

After having a stroke, Frazier retired and vowed to give back to her community. Influenced by Michelle Obama’s obesity initiative and seeing the repercussions of kids with idle time, Frazier agreed to head the program.

Lunch and Learn blends education, nutrition, physical fitness, and civic duties in one summer camp.

Frazier, a native Californian, decided to include swimming lessons in the program due to the large number of kids in the community who didn’t possess the life-saving skill.

Another skill Frazier feels should be taught is voting.

Takoma Park is unique in its 16 and older voting policy. The program brings in government officials to teach the children about their civic duties.

“I love Takoma Park and the youth is our future,” said Frazier. “We must invest in them because they are going to be making decisions tomorrow.”


LISTEN: Takoma Voice Editor Eric Bond discuss Lunch and Learn with Councilmember Jarrett Smith, Jacquette Frazier, and CHEER Director Bruce Baker on WOWD-LP Takoma Radio, 94.3 FM.